“The first dental visit” is a popular topic of debate for many new parents. How soon is too soon? What can happen if I wait too long?
These are familiar questions to Dr. David Thompson and Dr. Vicki Frey. With each doctor having more than 27 years of experience in family dentistry, and as parents themselves, they have solid substantiated advice for parents pondering when to schedule that initial exam for their child, and how to prepare kids of all ages for their dental visits.
The first exam
Drs. Thompson and Frey recommend scheduling the first dental exam by age two. Tooth care should begin as soon as the first tooth emerges by cleaning the tooth with a soft cloth and advancing to a baby toothbrush as more teeth fill in.
Children have 20 primary teeth and most have fully emerged by age three. Primary teeth start to be replaced by permanent teeth around the ages of five to six. This gives a brief window when all primary teeth are intact and not loose, which can give the dentist a good baseline to gauge future tooth and gum formation.
Early dental exams also set a pattern for the child to become comfortable with the dentist and hygienist, the cleaning process, and to follow regular at-home care.
Dental visit prep
- Set a positive example. Parents are a primary reason for childhood dental anxiety. Refrain from making worrisome comments about pain, drilling, or other aspects that could unduly cause fear and frame the dental visit poorly in the child’s mind. Speak of the dental exam in upbeat terms and express how you enjoy the visit. If the child has siblings, ask them to be supportive and share their good experiences!
- Talk about what to expect. Dental offices have instruments, equipment, reclining chairs, and bright lights that can be daunting to a toddler. Explain what they will see, possibly by viewing videos online in advance, or reading one of the many dental books aimed at preparing young children for their exam, which show lots of pictures of the dental exam room. At Thompson & Frey, our dentists take time to talk to children about the various dental procedures in terms they understand.
We also hold twice-annual fun-themed days focused on providing care to kids – you may want to choose one of these events for your child’s first exam.
- Bring your child to your dental exam. Let your toddler tag along to your next routine appointment. They will get a chair side view without being in the dental chair! They will also have a chance to meet the dental staff, become acclimated to the office environment, and anticipate the day they can have their first exam!