What Happens at a Child’s First Dentist Visit?
By: Pediatric Dentist Laura Goodell
In a previous blog post, I discussed the answer to a very common question parents ask me: “When should my child start seeing the dentist?” Parents should take their kids to see the dentist by their first birthday. But if your child is older than 1 and they haven’t seen the dentist, don’t fret! We will still happily see your child for their first visit!
Once parents understand the importance of their baby seeing the dentist, the next question I get is, “How does it work? Don’t they just cry?” While it’s true that the first dental visit can be a noisy one, the appointment is generally quick, fun, and informative.
Main Topics Covered at a Child's First Dentist Visit
Here are the main topics we'll cover at your child's first dentist visit:
- Comprehensive exam
- Individualized preventative dental health program
- Anticipatory guidance regarding growth and development
- Discussion of pacifier use and thumb sucking
- Prevention and management of dental trauma
- Dietary counseling
- Parent education
Typically, the child will have their teeth cleaned followed by a clinical exam by the dentist and application of fluoride varnish. Some brave little ones will climb into the dental chair themselves but generally parents will hold their child using the lap-to-lap technique.
Following the exam, your dentist will provide age-relevant information and recommendations for your individual child. Topics we may discuss include prevention of cavities, brushing and flossing techniques (especially for pre-cooperative children), what toothpaste and toothbrush to use, how snacking and dietary habits impact dental health, pacifier or thumb sucking habits, nursing and/or bottle use, injury prevention, and guidance of your child’s growth and development. Your dentist will create a personalized prevention plan based on your child’s individual risk factors. Establishing a “dental home” by their first birthday is an important first step for creating a lifetime of good oral health for your tot.
What is a Dental Home?
A dental home is the ongoing relationship between the dentist and the patient, inclusive of all aspects of oral health care delivered in a comprehensive, continuously accessible, coordinated, and family-centered way. Some parents will tell me, “I was told my child does not need to be seen until age 3,” which is very concerning to me because sometimes this is too late to prevent tooth decay on our children’s teeth. Remember, prevention and knowledge are the keys to helping your child have healthy teeth!
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) established the concept of the dental home and age one visit in 2003, and it was quickly adopted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Dental Association (ADA), and Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). Many general practitioners and family dentists will welcome babies for their first dental visit. However, if your dentist does not provide these services, ask for a referral to a pediatric dentist.
So, while you’re preparing to celebrate your baby’s first birthday—ordering a cake, scheduling photos, planning a party—don’t forget to schedule their first dental appointment! And if you’ve already missed that milestone for your little one, don’t worry; just remember it’s better late than never. We are happy to welcome your child, at any age, for their first dental visit. We’ll do our part to create a positive experience for your child and give you the knowledge and tools to foster a lifetime of happy smiles for your family!