When is the best age for a first dental visit?
The short answer is by their first birthday. In the past, it was recommended around age 3. However, over the years evidence has shown that children who visit the dentist and establish a “Dental Home” by age 1 are much more likely to have healthier mouths. This is because cavity prevention should start shortly after the first tooth begins to erupt (grow into the mouth). Cavity prevention is a two-prong approach – habits at home and in-office dental care. Learn more about in-office cavity prevention by reading the next section below!
What does a first dental visit typically include?
The first dental visit with us is one of the most important to us! It is an opportunity for our staff to meet you and your child, and we want to make it a positive and pleasant experience for you both. We value the opportunity to take some time to connect with you – learning about your particular interests or concerns for oral health – and if old enough, engaging with the child through conversation and showing them some simple tools we use in the office. Once everyone is comfortable, we begin treatment, which at our office places a heavy emphasis on cavity prevention. To us, it involves both hands-on care and empowerment for effective home habits.
Hands-on care involves an oral examination to identify potential abnormalities, not only of the teeth but of all parts of the oral cavity. For a very young child, we have them sit on a parent’s lap. When appropriate (based on age and examination findings), it also involves x-rays to see things we cannot see with the bare eye (cavities can be sneaky and love to hide between teeth)! Last and most obviously, it includes a dental cleaning and fluoride treatment.
Empowerment for effective home habits is centered upon “anticipatory guidance.” This meaning teaching you (the caregiver) what to expect and how to best help care for your child’s teeth in their present and next stage of growth and development. Kids grow up so fast, and from age 0-12 years their mouths are constantly undergoing changes that need to be cared for slightly differently each step of the way. We are here to keep you on track with age-appropriate advice and on the cutting edge as the science behind oral hygiene and dietary recommendations continues to evolve.
Is there anything I should do before the visit?
If old enough, your child should be informed of their visit, but try to keep it positive! It is common for our generation of parents to have dental fears and anxiety. This is a perception we are trying to change for our children through positive experiences with us! However, you can make a huge difference for them as well. Kids are incredibly smart, and they will pick up on things they hear you say (even if not to them!), and notice non-verbal cues (body language) just as well. Please let them know we are here to keep their teeth healthy and their smiles shining. We want to count their teeth and teach them how to brush.
Some parents try to comfort their kids by telling them “it won’t hurt.” Though it sounds good to us adults, most kids pick out the word hurt and worry anyway. Other words to avoid that might cause unnecessary fear include "needle", "shot", "pull", or "drill”. Though we don’t want you to lie to your child, our office makes an effort to use words that convey the same message, but are pleasant and non-frightening to the child.
Who can accompany my child on their visit?
For the first visit, a parent or legal guardian must accompany the child. This is because those are the only individuals that can legally provide certain information and sign forms needed for care. For future visits, you are able to sign permission for other individuals to accompany the child on your behalf.
We prefer for you to stay with your child throughout their initial visit with us. However, during future appointments for school-age children, we suggest you allow your child to accompany our staff through the dental experience. We can usually establish a closer rapport with your child when you are not present. Our purpose is to gain your child's confidence and overcome apprehension. However, if you choose, you are more than welcome to accompany your child to the treatment room. In that case, we ask that you remain a “silent observer” once we start treatment, for the same reasons mentioned above. For the safety and privacy of all patients, other children who are not being treated should remain in the reception room with a supervising adult.
The Dental Home is intended to provide a place other than the Emergency Room for parents.