A Child's First Dental Visit

When should your child first see a dentist? The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children should have their first dental visit at age 1.

At your child's first visit, the dentist can give you information on:
  • Baby bottle tooth decay
  • Infant feeding practices
  • Mouth cleaning
  • Teething
  • Pacifier habits
  • Finger-sucking habits
Prepare Your Child

If possible, schedule morning appointments so young children are alert and fresh. We also suggest you read picture books about visiting the dentist.

Prepare Yourself

Discuss your questions and concerns with the dentist. Remember that your feeling toward dental visits can be quite different from your child’s. Be honest with your view of the dentist. If you have dental anxieties, be careful not to relate those fears or dislikes to your child. Parents need to give moral support by staying calm while in the dental exam room. Children can pick up parents’ anxieties and become anxious themselves.

Prepare the Dentist

At the first visit, please be prepared to give the dentist your child’s complete health history. This may require you have additional records and information.

The First Visit

Your child’s first dental visit is to help your child feel comfortable with the dentist and often lasts 30 to 45 minutes. Please read on to learn what you do and should can expect at your child’s first appointment.

First, the dental hygienist will go over your child’s medical history and check if you have any questions or concerns.

Next, the dental hygienist will have the parent sit on the dental chair with your child and they will sit across from you and instruct you how to position your child for the lap to lap exam and cleaning.

Lap to lap is a technique that is used to help make the child feel comfortable and calm, and for the clinician to see inside the mouth easily.

A toothbrush prophy (cleaning) is performed, and a demonstration on the proper brushing and flossing techniques will be performed.

The dental hygienist will go over home care to help you protect your child’s teeth at home (see right).

The dentist will come in and examine existing teeth, as well as soft tissues in the mouth and check for proper growth and development. The dentist will answer any questions or concerns, address important information, and go over any findings on the exam.

If the child is cavity free, fluoride varnish will be applied to the teeth. As long as there are no major problems, we will have you bring your child in for a dental check up every 6 months.

Here are some tips to protect your child’s teeth:

  • Before teeth come in, clean gums with a clean, damp cloth.
  • Start brushing with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and a very small amount of toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) when your child’s first tooth appears.
  • Use a pea-sized dab of fluoridated toothpaste after 3 years of age. This is when the child is old enough to spit out the toothpaste after brushing.
  • Prevent baby bottle tooth decay. Don’t give children a bottle of milk, juice, or sweetened liquid at bedtime or when put down to nap.
  • Help your child brush his or her own teeth until age 7 or 8. Have the child watch you brush, and follow the same brushing pattern to reduce missed spots.
  • Limit foods and treats that increase tooth decay. This includes hard or sticky candies, and sweetened drinks and juice. Offer fruit rather than juice.