A little girl holding an over-sized pink toothbrush at a dentist office.
When taking your toddler to their first dentist appointment, it's important to stay calm and supportive.

What to Know About a First Dental Visit for a Toddler

You've probably heard the old saying, "oral health is overall health," and children are no exception. As parents, it is your job to take care of your little ones and teach them how to care for themselves someday. While dental care may not be your kid's favorite part of the day, it is certainly an essential part. In this article, we are going to cover oral health basics and guide you through what to expect during a first dental visit for toddler. If you or your little one has some anxiety about going to the dentist, we are here to help! Learn tips and get advice straight from the professionals!

When to Schedule the First Appointment

According to the American Dental Association, it is best practice to bring your toddler to the dentist for their first check-up within six months of their first tooth erupting. While this may seem early, dentists are specifically trained to assess your baby's growing mouth.

Dentists can pick up on issues that parents may not see, and conversely, they can reassure you if you have concerns. Also, when you bring in your child at an early age, the dentists can often help prevent or diminish the impact of any potential oral issues as your baby grows.

What to Expect

You and your little one can be assured that the first dental visit for a toddler will generally be an easy one. Ideally, your baby's first visit will be before their first birthday. Because of their age, perfect patient etiquette is not expected, and the exam will generally be short.

The dentist will first introduce themselves to you and your child. Next, they are likely to discuss and answer any questions you may have. The dentist will then want to look in your child's mouth to examine their gums and any teeth that have come in, looking for signs of decay or irregularities.

Sometimes, the dentist may want to take x-rays. This will help them see between teeth and assess the teeth that are still under the gums. X-rays allow the dentist to get a complete picture of your child's oral health and can help them make the best treatment plan for your child.

The dentist may also want to clean your child's teeth at this time. For example, excessive plaque buildup may warrant a change in diet, the use of preventative treatments or more diligent home cleaning. Your dentist can also assess for other oral issues that may be related to lifestyle or habits, such as thumb sucking or taking a bottle to bed.

How Often Should You Take Your Toddler to the Dentist?

In general, your children should see a dentist once every six months. This will allow for regular cleanings and consistent monitoring of your child's oral development. Take advantage of these visits by asking your dentist any questions that you have about your child's new teeth and growing mouth.

If your little one is predisposed to oral issues or your dentist has identified a problem, they may want to see your child more than twice a year. Your dentist can help advise you on how often is appropriate for your child's unique development.

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How to Calm Fears and Prepare for Your Child’s First Visit

A new situation can be anxiety-inducing for anyone, especially a child who may not understand why a stranger is looking in their mouth. So, for this reason, it is important that we set our children up for the best possible experience when they visit the dentist for the first time.
Here are some tips to make your first visit successful:

  • Keep calm. If you have anxiety about the dentist or have specific concerns about your child's oral health, keep them to yourself prior to the appointment. Try not to let your child pick up on your anxiety and let them feel calm and unbothered about their first visit.
  • Book early appointments. When you can, book your appointments for first thing in the morning. This increases the chance that your appointment will run on time, and your child will be well-rested and in a good mood.
  • Don’t threaten or bribe your child. Avoid bribes or threats when talking about dental care or going to the dentist. Treat the dentist as a fun, happy adventure that everyone looks forward to.

Making a Home Dental Care Routine

After your first visit with the dentist, you will likely have a good idea of how your child's oral health is overall. You will understand if you need to be more diligent with cleanings or if you have to correct certain habits. It is essential to take this advice and implement it as best as you can. This will ensure that your child enjoys their healthy and beautiful teeth for their entire life.