The Happy Visit: A Child’s First Trip to the Dentist

You want your child’s first experience at the dentist to be a positive one no matter what age they are. A child going to the dentist for the first time is often a handful of anxieties. Any dentist or hygienist using the right techniques can transform the most terrified child into a cooperative patient who is no longer afraid – a child who will leave the office with a smile on his face.

The American Dental Association or (ADA) recommends that you schedule your child’s first appointment with the dentist after their first Make it Funbaby tooth erupts. These early visits are encouraged between 12-18 months of age for several reasons. Educating mom and dad on proper nutrition and dental hygiene for their kids is a big part of that. All children should be socialized into the dental setting with what we call “happy visits” beginning by age two. This no-stress visit would be tailored to the child’s level of maturity and self-confidence. A ride in the “cool dentist chair”, playing with the air-water hand piece, and seeing a big sister do all this are all steps to successful rapport building even with the tiniest of patients.

Some tips for a good first dental visit:

  • First and foremost, pick a dentist that has a good reputation for working with kids. Some dentists specialize in pediatric dentistry but many family dentists will also be able to meet both you and your child’s needs.
  • Secondly, if you decide to bring your child to the dentist at the age of one, try not to make a big deal about the visit. They can sit on your lap and you can comfort them as you would at any doctor’s appointment.
  • Thirdly, your child may not remember their first visit to the dentist if they were a baby or toddler. We find a great way to help kids adjust is to bring them with you while you have your teeth cleaned and examined. They will be able to observe what the hygienist and the dentist does in your mouth. Allow them the opportunity to ask questions during your appointment.
  • Another way you can help your child adjust is to talk about what a dentist does. Using things such as a small mirror at home to look in their mouth and count their teeth helps make them feel more comfortable when the dentist does it.
  • Leading up to their first appointment, encourage your child to brush their teeth letting them know that their dentist will be excited to see nice clean teeth at their appointment. Tell your child how great their smile is and how their dentist wants to see them smile.
  • Stay away from using phrases such as “Don’t worry, they won’t hurt you”. This places the idea in your child’s mind that it could hurt. Keep things low key and easy going. Kids also tend to do better with morning appointments rather then afternoon.

In the end, your goal is to create a non threatening environment for your child’s first experience at the dentist. You want to help them be excited about taking good care of their teeth which will in turn help them take better care of their whole body.

About the Author

I am a family dentist who treats children as well as adults. Making smiles people love, extreme makeovers and complex dental reconstruction is our niche including implants, TMJ, orthodontics and cosmetic dentistry. As a participant in the blog, I will be offering dental perspectives on pediatric safety and health care options on a regular basis. I can be reached at Blessings to all! Dr Williams is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


9 Responses to “The Happy Visit: A Child’s First Trip to the Dentist”

  1. Great advice! I followed a friend’s advice and took my children with me to the dentist from the time they were born – not to have their teeth checked, just to sit in their stroller and watch me. When they had teeth the dentist let them sit in the chair so he could count their teeth. By the time it was time for a real cleaning they couldn’t wait for their turn. Now 8 and 6 they love going to the dentist – long may it last!
    .-= Rebecca Wear Robinson´s last blog ..Who is watching your children? =-.

  2. Hazel Owens says:

    I like your tip to bring your child to the dentist while you have your teeth cleaned. Not only will this allow your child to observe the procedure; it will demonstrate to them that there’s nothing to be afraid of. Children often look up to their parents for cues on how to react to a situation, so acting calm during your dentist appointment can help them be calm during theirs. Thanks for the article.

    • Stefanie Zucker Stefanie Zucker says:

      Thanks Hazel…how very right you are! Children take their cues from us when it comes to situations like this. Showing them there’s nothing to be scared of can make all the difference!

  3. Odonto says:

    My daughter loves brush her teeth.
    And i loves when she ask for more!
    Nice article! I liked it.

  4. Christina says:

    Your tips could save some parents some stress, especially the one about preparing the child for someone holding a mirror to their teeth by doing the same beforehand at home. Your other tip about excitedly cleaning the child’s teeth can prepare them to show their great work to the dentist and give them a sense of ownership in the experience, making it fun.


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