Taking your child to see the dentist for the first time can be a little nerve-wracking (for you), but it doesn't have to be (for them). The Academy of Pediatric Dentistry actually recommends that a child should visit the dentist when their first tooth appears. It sounds early, but it will help your child develop a great relationship with their pediatric or family dentist from a young age. Here's what you can expect from the first appointment.
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Golden Rule of a First Visit to the Dentist
The most important thing, when taking your child to visit the dentist for the first time, is to remember that your feelings will be different to your child's. Your child has never been before, so to them it could be an exciting adventure. Be honest with your child if they ask questions, but be careful not to scare your child with your own fears and anxieties. Our dentists will do everything they can to make sure your child has a great first visit.
Every dentist is different, and it's important to find someone you trust, who is a great fit for your family. The best way is to ask your family and friends for recommendations, but you can also Google pediatric dentists or family dentists in your area. If you have dental insurance, you should find out if they have a participating provider nearby who can help.
Read more: What to look for in a pediatric dentist
Preparing Your Child To Meet the Dentist
Healthy dental hygiene practices start at home. You should start brushing your child's teeth with a small, soft toothbrush when their first tooth appears, and you should help your child brush their teeth until they're about seven or eight. You may find it's helpful to brush your teeth with them, so they can mimic your actions and ensure they don't miss any spots. This will normalize the process so it can become a habit.
When the time comes for the appointment, talk to your child about what they can expect. Schedule an appointment in the morning, if you can, so your child will be fresh, and explain that the dentist will want to look inside their mouth to make sure their teeth are strong. It helps if your child is curious and interested about what the dentist does.
Read more: 5 things you can do to keep your child's teeth healthy
What To Expect at the Appointment
Your child's first visit to the dentist will probably be quite short. The dentist will spend most of the time making sure your child feels happy and comfortable, before examining and cleaning their teeth. They'll look at your child's teeth, jaws, bite, and gums, to make sure everything is developing correctly and talk to you about any potential issues.
They'll also educate both you and your child about things you should keep in mind to promote dental hygiene at home, for example, what kind of toothpaste and toothbrush to use, brushing techniques, how to avoid cavities. This is also a great opportunity to ask the dentist any questions you have about things like thumb-sucking or teething discomfort.
Read more: Meet the dentists that will help your child
Helping Children Maintain Healthy Teeth
The final piece to the puzzle, in helping children develop good dental habits, is to teach them about causes of tooth decay. It's important to educate them about the fact that things like candy, or sweetened drinks, can cause cavities. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, with plenty of water, isn't just good for helping them develop strong bones and healthy muscles. It will also set them up for a lifetime of good dental health.
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