What Can Your Child Expect at Their First Dental Visit?

Tips for your child's first dental visit

How to Prepare for a Successful, Low-Stress Dental Appointment With Your Child

Your child’s first dental visit is an important milestone in their life. The more positive experiences kids have with dentists during childhood, the greater their chances of continuing to regularly visit a dentist as an adult.

Here’s what to expect during a child’s first appointment at Staley Dental and what parents can do to help everything go well.

Your child’s first dental appointment has 6 main steps.

1. Arriving and getting your child checked in for their appointment.

You’ll be welcomed into our office and our staff will help you and your child get checked in. For a first appointment, we recommend coming in about 10 minutes early if you need to fill out New Patient forms for your child.

From there, one of our dental assistants will bring you and your child to an exam room to get comfortable while you wait for the pediatric dentist.

2. Reviewing your child’s medical history as well as family health history.

After introducing yourselves, one of the first things your child’s dentist will talk about is your family health history and your child’s medical history. Underlying health conditions, previous past health complications, and any current concerns should be brought up. Don’t forget to mention any medications your child may be taking.

3. Talking about your child’s oral habits, diet, and overall development.

With the medical history out of the way, the pediatric dentist will then chat with you about your child’s diet and oral habits, as well as learn about how they’re developing overall. Oral habits that are especially important to mention include the use of a pacifier, drinking from sippy cups, and thumbsucking.

4. Examining your child’s smile with a calm, no-pressure approach.

Our dental team and dentists always strive to keep exams as calm as possible. We don’t push youngsters to the point of being uncomfortable and we aim to be thorough but quick during the examination. The older kids get, the more confident they feel during exams. But for infants and toddlers, we like to keep things brief, enjoyable, and interesting for the young patient.

5. Going over what your dentist finds from the examination.

After the exam, the dentist will let you know what they are seeing in your child’s mouth. For infants and toddlers, you’ll learn how their smiles are looking and which primary teeth will be coming in. For older kids, you’ll learn about their level of oral health, how their teeth alignment looks, and whether or not any signs of trouble are present.

6. Discussing at-home oral care routines and demonstrating techniques.

Near the end of the visit, your dentist or a dental assistant will talk with you and your child about at-home oral care. You’ll design a thorough at-home dental care routine and learn more about which oral care products are right for your child. For infants and toddlers, you’ll be shown how to begin brushing and flossing their teeth. Older kids who are starting to brush on their own will also be taught with a hands-on approach.

Parents can do these 5 important things to help their child’s visit go smoothly.

1. Book the appointment at a time when your child is receptive to learning.

Try to pick an appointment time that works with their child’s normal schedule. If naptime is usually around 1 pm, booking an appointment around this time could make for a cranky kid and an unpleasant dental visit. Instead, try for a timeslot where your child is typically refreshed, awake, and receptive to learning or play.

2. Bring along another adult, if possible, but leave siblings at home.

For older kids, we encourage some independence, but in the case of infants and toddlers, it can be helpful to have mom or dad as well as another set of hands. An accompanying parent or adult friend/family member can keep your baby entertained while you speak with the dentist.

3. Fill out forms and review payment options before the appointment.

Visit our New Patient Info webpage and you’ll find a link to New Patient forms you can fill out prior to your child’s appointment. Scroll down on that page and you’ll also see information on payment options we offer in addition to accepted dental insurance. Taking care of these things pre-appointment makes things much less hectic for parents.

4. Explain what will happen in an age-appropriate way but keep details vague.

Infants may not understand what you’re saying, but for toddlers and kids, it’s a good idea to let them know what will happen during their appointment. Nobody likes surprises, especially kids who are in a very new and overwhelming environment.

We recommend parents give their kids the gist of what will happen but keep details vague. During the actual appointment, your child’s dentist will go into more detail in a way that’s tailored to your child’s age, interest, and anxiety level.

5. Use positive language and be aware of the phrases you use.

When talking with your child about the dentist, use positive language only. Your child’s dentist should be referenced as a trusted friend, someone important for keeping smiles healthy and bright. Be aware of using terms that have negative connotations, such as “shots,” “injections,” “drill,” “pain,” etc.

Also, ditch the “Don’t worry, it won’t hurt” phrase. We know how easy it is to want to say this when a child is feeling afraid, but it often reinforces the idea that getting hurt should be associated with a dentist visit.

Ready to schedule your child’s first dental visit at Staley Dental?

If you have questions or you’re ready to book your child’s first appointment, you can get in touch by calling our Boise office or filling out this online request form.