Tips to Help Your Child Prepare to Go to the Pediatric Dentist
Going to the dentist for the first time can be a daunting experience for both parent and child. First-time parents may not know what to expect at all. Veteran parents may not know what to expect of their new little one at the dentist’s office—after all, every child is different.
Preparation is the key to success. If both you and your child are informed and ready for your visit to the pediatric dentist, you’re setting everyone up for success. Below are some tips for preparing for your child’s trip to the pediatric dentist.
When To Schedule Your Child’s First Visit
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends taking your child for their first visit to the dentist when their first tooth comes in or around their first birthday, whichever comes first. That first dental appointment is a chance to find out about the health of your baby’s mouth. It’s also a chance for parents to be educated about how to best care for their baby’s teeth going forward.
Taking your child to the dentist while they’re still young will allow them to become comfortable with the dental office environment. Future visits will be a breeze. At Beanca Chu, DDS, APC, we suggest making that first appointment at a time of day when your child is alert and calm. For many kids, this is in the morning, not around nap times or late in the day when your child may be grumpy or cranky.
Preparing Your Child
You’ve made that first appointment! Way to go! Now it’s time to get your child ready. Children learn best when they’re having fun, so make your preparations enjoyable. There are many great videos out there about going to the dentist. Find an engaging video with an appropriate running time for your child. Sesame Street in Communities has a great one called Daniel Gets His Teeth Cleaned.
Books can be incredibly helpful in getting a child ready for all sorts of life events, including a visit to the dentist. It can be hard to choose from all the wonderful books out there on the topic. Here are three to get you started:
- The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss
- The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist by Stan and Jan Berenstain
- Brush Brush Brush by Alicia Padron
Role playing can also set a child’s mind at ease. Pick a favorite stuffed animal and act out what will happen at the dentist. Allow your child to bring that favorite stuffie with them to the dentist—there may be time to check the stuffed animal’s teeth, too! Make sure to talk with your child in advance of their appointment. Assure them there will be no shots, explain what the dentist will do (examine and brush teeth), and tell them they will learn all about how to take care of their teeth.
Your child is not the only one who will need to be ready for that first outing to the dentist. In addition to making the appointment, there’s more you can do to make your visit go smoothly. If you know your child may be nervous about their trip to the dentist, you can ask about a tour ahead of time. Being able to check out the office and the dentist chair beforehand could ease their anxiety.
Perhaps your child has special needs. Letting the dentist’s staff know in advance will allow them to be prepared on the day. You may need to educate them on exactly what will best help your child, but they’ll be eager to learn. Most dental offices will require paperwork to be filled out for an initial dental appointment. Some offices may allow you to fill these out online, others may want you to fill them out in person. Either way, it’s a good idea to arrive early for your scheduled visit to provide any last-minute information the dental office needs.
What to Expect at That First Visit
At Beanca Chu, DDS, APC, we know how important it is for your child to have a great first experience at the pediatric dentist. From the moment your child comes in the door, we aim to make them feel comfortable. Once they’re relaxed in the dental chair, the dentist will examine your child’s mouth, explaining, of course, everything they’re doing along the way. They will check for dental caries (decay), tongue ties (the tongue’s range of motion), and any injuries that may be present. X-rays won’t likely need to be taken until your child is two or three years of age.
After the exam, the dentist will go over everything you need to know about taking care of your child’s teeth. Topics covered may include:
- best toothbrush/toothpaste to use
- brushing/flossing techniques
- remedies for teething
- healthy food/drinks to promote good dental health
Make sure to either write down or make a mental note of any questions you may have about your child’s teeth. This first visit is a great time to get some answers.
Patience is a Virtue
Just as it’s important for the dentist to have patience with your child, you will need to have patience too. You may make every effort to ready your little one for their dental appointment, and they may still react badly. You may want to ask if your child can sit in your lap for the exam or if you can take them for a quick walk before trying the exam again. If all else fails, you can make a future appointment and try again later. Time and a little more preparation may do the trick.
Your Child’s Second Visit
By the time they’ve gotten through that first visit, your child will be an expert. You’ll want to schedule check-ups every six months to keep on top of any dental issues that crop up as more teeth begin to emerge. Now that your child’s been to the dentist, you can refer back to that experience before their next appointment. In case they’ve forgotten, you can remind them that there were no shots, that the dentist gave them a great report, and, perhaps, that it was cool to check out all the fun dental tools.
A Successful Dental Introduction
Taking care of your child’s teeth from the moment they pop out sets the stage for a healthy mouth throughout childhood and all the way into adulthood. Following these suggestions for preparation can make for a successful trip to the pediatric dentist.