The first visit to the dentist
Child at first dental visit

Wish you could somehow start over and stop being afraid of going to the dentist? Here's your chance to give that opportunity to your child. Learn how to work with your child's dentist and discover simple ways to prepare your young child for his first dentist appointment.

Head off dental fears

Regardless of your relationship with dentistry, you have the power to give your child a great start. Help your child establish good oral hygiene habits early and foster a healthy attitude about going to the dentist for regular exams. Even if your child requires dental procedures, it's possible to work with her pediatric dentist to give her the best experience possible.

Choose the right dentist

First of all, if you're dissatisfied with your child's current dentist, don't hesitate to switch dentists. You and your child should be comfortable with the office and staff. Before you book your child's appointment, visit prospective dentists. Take note of the waiting room and procedure areas. Atmosphere can go a long way toward helping calm kids, so look for fun details beyond the ubiquitous fish tank. Many kids will actually look forward to visiting the dentist for regular checkups if the office and cleaning procedures are structured in a fun way.

Use a checklist for choosing a pediatric dentist >>

Talk to your child about the dentist

Talk about visiting the dentist before your child's first appointment. Don't just spring the visit on him without a warning. Try visiting your local library to read age-appropriate books about oral hygiene and visiting the dentist. Go online together to surf the American Dental Association's picture books for preschoolers and elementary school children.

Let your child know that the dentist and his helpers won't do anything that hurts. Try to address everything positively. Help your child understand that the dentist will make his teeth happy, healthy and shiny. Ask your child's teacher when oral hygiene will be addressed at school. It may help to schedule an appointment soon after your child has learned about the dentist at school.

Learn more about preparing for the first trip to the dentist >>

Ask about pain control and calming techniques

Before your child's visit, ask the dentist about techniques used to help kids stay calm and pain free. This is especially important if your child needs to have a filling or other dental procedure. Innovations in dentistry can help with pain control and fear.

"Hands down, the most difficult part of a dental procedure for children is the dreaded dental injection," says Dr. Steven G. Goldberg, D.D.S., inventor of the DentalVibe Injection Comfort System. "A new patented device called DentalVibe, is now available to take away the pain of injections. It is a simple vibrating device used while the injection is given, that looks like a battery powered toothbrush, and it even comes with a free giveaway toy for kids. With the use of the DentalVibe, children will never fear going to the dentist."

Talk to your dentist about what you can do to help keep your child calm. Some dentists ask parents to remain in the waiting room, while others allow parents to stay in the back. Find out how your child's dentist handles procedures when you make your appointment.

Practice at home

Help your child brush and floss her teeth at home. Even babies can practice having teeth and gums wiped with special wipes like Spiffies. Many dentists recommend seeing children for the first exam around the first birthday. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says: "In order to prevent dental problems, your child should see a pediatric dentist when the first tooth appears, or no later than his/her first birthday." Some parents opt to wait until closer to the second or third birthday, however.

No matter when you take your child to her first appointment, talk about the importance of keeping teeth clean and practice helping her floss at home so she becomes accustomed to having her teeth cleaned with assistance. Set a good example by maintaining your own brushing and flossing routine.

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