By Nicole Pelletiere
Your toddler’s probably gone from gummy smile to a mouth full of pearly whites in what feels like an instant—and now it’s time for his first dentist visit. Here’s what to expect during his first visit, plus how to help your child feel comfortable with the dentist.
When should your toddler have his first dentist visit?
Your child should have his first dentist visit by the time he turns one or as soon as his first tooth pops up (whichever comes first), says the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). It might seem young, but starting dental visits early helps your toddler and you build good oral hygiene habits, says Warren Brill, D.M.D., president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Being smart about kids dental care now will help keep cavities at bay, plus prevent chances for other tooth-related problems in the future.
What to expect at the first dentist visit
At your child’s first dental visit, the dentist will perform a regular clinical exam to be sure that the teeth and gums are healthy and developing normally, says Brill. She’ll also show you how to help your toddler brush his teeth properly and ask questions about your child’s nutrition and feeding habits. If your tot is over 18 months and still has a beloved attachment to his binky, let the dentist know. That way, she can share so that he advice for how to wean your baby off a bottle, which will help stave off tooth decay or palate changes.
Prepping your toddler for his first dentist visit
With the sharp tools and bright lights, your child’s first dentist visit might feel a little scary for him. Still (and even if you don’t love the tooth doctor) it’s your job to make him feel OK about getting his teeth examined. Here’s how:
Give your toddler an age-appropriate idea of what will happen at his first dentist visit: When you get there, he’ll get to play with some fun toys for a few minutes before the exam starts. When it’s time to meet the dentist, he’ll sit your child in a special chair, look at your child’s teeth, and maybe even give him a prize at the end. Explain to him that his first dentist visit is important so that he can learn how to keep his teeth stay healthy, white, and strong.
Play dentist together
Before his first dentist visit, help your child brush and count his teeth in the mirror. You can even pretend play by acting out what’ll take place during the exam. Have your toddler be the dentist while you act as the patient, or use dolls and narrate what’s happening at the appointment.
Remind him that you’ll be there, too
Assure your tot that you’ll be there to hold his hand the whole time. (If he wants, most dentists even let toddlers sit on their parent’s lap.) And just so there’s no surprises, tell your toddler of all the different people he might meet at his first dentist visit—like the lady at the desk in the same room where all the toys are, other kids, the dentist, and the dentist’s helper friend.