Many dentist associations around the world suggest that the best time for the child’s first dental visit is when the child turns one. The first teeth have just grown, and there is a very small chance of a serious dental procedure. In this way, you ensure that the child will not associate dental visits with trauma and pain. Your dentist will also be able to identify some unwanted habits that might influence the future development of the jaw.
Aside from children, the first visit to the dentist can be stressful for the parents, too. If the parents have their own fear of the dentist, it is important they do not transfer their fear on their children. It is important to start talking with your child about the importance of teeth, oral health and dental hygiene as soon as possible. It is best to visualize it to the child with a toy or drawings. It is important to explain the role of the dentist, what he does in his office, how the office looks like, and the instruments that the dentist uses. You should not play down the visit, nor should you make it grander than it is. You should never scare your child, because that fear will be hard to get rid of even in adult age. Children feel special connection to their mothers at that age, so the child should sit in their mother or father’s lap who will be sitting in the dentist’s chair. That will make the child feel freer and more secure during the first visit. You can take the toy or paint-book along, identifying the child with the main character, giving the child a sense of pleasure and pride after the visit. Some parents talk to their dentist before the appointment, giving him information about their child (favorite cartoon, color, and toy). The dentist can start a conversation with the child and the child becomes more cooperative and braver.
In most cases, parents sadly postpone or neglect the importance of the first dental visit. Parents usually take their children to the dentist only when something is not right, when they are in pain or when they fell and chipped one of their teeth. In that later age children are already more aware of their surroundings and have perhaps heard about some of the negative experiences from their peers or family member. In those cases, the child is scared and unwilling to cooperate. That is why a preventive appointment in a very early age is crucial for the child’s understanding of the dentist’s role as important and positive.
How does the first dental visit look like?
The first visit is usually short, no more than 15 minutes long. The dentist talks to the child, introduces him to dentistry, and does not work with the mouth. If the child is cooperative, the dentist may examine the mouth by using the mirror and picker. By checking the oral health, he is planning future therapy. If the child is very cooperative, the dentist can examine the jaw, the bite mark, and the gingiva. He can also do some simple interventions, like polishing the teeth with a rotating brush, or coating the teeth with fluoride. The dentist will also give instructions on proper oral hygiene, healthy diet habits, reduction or elimination of unwanted habits (suckling, biting, grinding). In the end, the parents will receive instructions and make the next appointment. Regular checkups should be scheduled every three to six months.
One piece of advice for the parents:
Be a role model to your child by brushing your own teeth regularly, taking care of your oral hygiene, and visiting your dentist on regular basis.