When should you take your child to the pediatric dentist, and how do you prepare them? Learn some tips and tricks, and look for the right dentist near me.
According to both the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a child's first visit to the pediatric dentist should be when their first tooth erupts in their mouth.
That should be no later than age one to two.
Protecting your child's teeth is important, even though they aren't their permanent teeth. It also sets your child up to have a positive relationship with dentists.
Hopefully, this new experience will set them up to take oral health care seriously for their entire life. Which is why parents want to make sure everything goes well.
Here's what every parent needs to know when it's time for them to take their kids to a dentist.
How to Find a Great Pediatric Dentist Near Me
Before you find a good dentist, there are a few things you should know, first.
While you may want to take your child to your own dentist, unless they often work with children or specialize in working with children, it may not be the best idea.
Instead, ask your dentist where you can find a child's dentist nearby. If you're not comfortable asking your dentist to recommend someone, you can also ask friends and family nearby for recommendations.
Another way to find a dentist near me is to visit The Traveling Parent. Our site can provide you a list of dentists nearby who works specifically with young children.
Local websites and magazines may also provide you with some recommendations.
You can also ask your pediatrician for a referral.
Check out their website before you schedule an appointment. A pediatric dentist is required to take two additional years of residency training to treat small children and kids with special needs.
Don't forget to look for any online reviews you can find on the dentist. Also, don't be afraid to ask questions so you're comfortable taking your child to them.
How to Prepare Before You Go
Once you find one you like, schedule an appointment with them to take a tour of their office with your child. It's a good way for you to observe for yourself how the staff and dentist handle kids.
But it's not just your child's comfort level you need to think about. If you're not comfortable with the dentist or their procedures, it's your responsibility to speak up.
A good pediatric dentist should stop working if the child is upset or nervous. Their office should be clean and all the staff working on patients should be wearing protective gloves and masks.
Create a list of any medical conditions and medications your child takes and give it to the dentist before they do any work on your child. Also, make sure you have your pediatrician's contact information handy in case the dentist requires additional health information.
While sucking on a pacifier, thumb or bottle may help your child remain calm, the habit can affect their teeth or jaw.
And while milk and juice might seem healthy, both contain sugar and bacteria. Only let them sleep with a bottle filled with water to prevent future cavities and other problems with their teeth.
Lastly, talk to your child about what they can expect to happen at the dentist's office. Practice brushing with your child so they get used to having a toothbrush and other instruments in their mouth.
What Happens While You're There
When you first go to the pediatric dentist, the most important thing is to ensure that your child feels comfortable. Formally introduce your child to their new dentist.
The dentist should then begin speaking to your child and explaining each step they will take during the examination. They should also show your child what tools he or she will be using.
Lastly, the dentist should also make it easy for your child to speak up if they feel nervous. You should be allowed to have your child sit on your lap and have the procedure stopped if they're scared.
The Facts About the Procedure
The dentist you choose should explain to your child what the procedure of a typical checkup is. They can do that easily by using models, and oversize brush, and even finger puppets.
The dentist should also show your child how to brush their teeth with you helping. It's a good habit for them to get into as early as possible.
And they should talk about how cavities can creep up on them as they sleep if they don't brush and floss regularly. The dentist should also explain why good nutrition and drinking plenty of water can keep their mouth healthy and happy.
If during this time, you or your child have questions or concerns, a good local pediatric dentist should be willing to sit down and address them.
Learning About the Machinery
Some of the equipment dentists use can scare the heck out of adults. And some of the tools make a lot of terrifying noises.
If a child doesn't understand that, it could make them nervous. Have your dentist show your child how all the equipment works before they start any examination.
That includes showing your child how to use the spitting cup. While the noise is scary, most kids do like the opportunity to be able to spit into something without getting in trouble.
The next step is for the dentist to talk about counting your child's teeth. After donning their mask and gloves, they can either use their model or you to demonstrate how they'll put his or her fingers into your child's mouth.
X-rays are often taken, especially at a first examination. That way, they can see if there are any underlying issues that the naked eye can't see.
Have the dentist explain the procedure and how it works. If your child is scared, have the dentist show the procedure using you as an example.
Have them place the x-ray blanket over you. It should be explained that it's necessary to keep the blanket on until all the x-rays have been taken.
Also, the dentist should explain that a piece of the machine will go into their mouth to take photos of their teeth. It should be explained how important it is for the child to hold the mouthpiece firmly in place so the x-rays are taken properly the first time.
The Cleaning and Polishing
After the dentist has done the exam, the next step is to clean and polish the teeth. That means the dentist will be using a rotary toothbrush to clean the teeth.
At this point, the dentist or the staff should provide your kid with goggles or sunglasses to protect the eyes. Make sure your child understands every step that's happening.
Also, make sure that your child sees and hears everything before any work is done. It will help relax them and make the child feel safe.
The Final Steps
The sucking straw they use can be a little scary if your child doesn't understand what it's used for. Have the dentist show your child how that sucking straw works before it's used.
Explain that the sucking straw is sort of like a vacuum. It just sucks out anything that doesn't need to be left in the mouth.
The next step is a coat of topical fluoride. However, most dentists will ask the parent if it's okay to use fluoride before they go ahead and give it to your child.
Do your research to see if fluoride is something you feel comfortable with. If you're not, tell the dentist.
Once the exam is over, the fun part begins. That's the part where your kid gets to go through a bag of goodies and pick out something they like.
Dentists often have stickers, finger puppets, balloons, crayons, sugarless candy and other types of grab bag items just for their little patients. It's a great way for kids to feel like they're being rewarded for being good.
It also helps them associate the dentist's office as a place where it's fun to go. If your child gets nervous during the exam, have them pick out a prize earlier to help them calm down.
If your child still has too much trouble handling the trip, that's okay. It might just mean he or she isn't quite ready for the visit.
If so, cut it short and then try again in a few months.
Your Attitude Matters
Kids are extremely perceptive. They're also really sensitive.
They pick up on everything, even when you think you're doing a good job at hiding something from them. And children are more likely to mirror your behavior then they are to follow a rule that you don't follow yourself.
Make sure you're relaxed and happy when you talk about going to the dentist. Share some of the positive experiences you've had with your dental visits.
Talk to your child about visiting the dentist. Explain why they need to go and how much fun it can be.
Talk to them about the importance of oral health care. Show them how you floss and brush your teeth.
Until the age of eight, kids need help brushing their own teeth. Get into the habit of brushing their teeth with them twice a day.
Even if they don't have their baby teeth in, just having them watching you with your daily dental habits is a good idea.
How to Help Them Worry Less
If your child seems really nervous about seeing a local dentist, have them pick out a special outfit to wear to their first visit. Allow them to bring their favorite toy or book along to help them feel safe.
You can also buy books written for children about going to the dentist for the first time. The books will help them see that everyone has to go to the dentist and that they too, can be brave and get through the exam with flying colors.
If your child has older siblings, they can help. Have them share their positive experiences with your younger children.
Bring your child to your dental visits and/or the visits for your other children. The more used to it they are, the less likely there will be any issues when it's time for their first visit.
If you are afraid of the dentist, let the pediatric dentist know that before you bring your child. They might have some additional solutions to help ease your anxiety so your child won't pick up on it.
If you're afraid your child will pick up on your fears you can also consider having your spouse or another family member take them to the dental office.
After the Visit
It might be fun to plan a fun trip somewhere after your first visit. That way, your child can focus on what's happening next versus what's happening when they're in the chair.
You can also take them out to dinner as a treat. However, you might want to find a restaurant with some healthy options so that you're following the dentist's instructions.
Remember to change our their toothbrush every three months with a new one. If you see that the bristles are flat, it's time to change it.
A child usually should go to their dentist every six months. However, if there are some trouble spots or your child is too fearful, they may recommend visits every three months until everything has been sorted out.
We're Here to Help Parents
Parenting isn't easy. We all need as much help as we can get.
That's why we built our website. To help you find the types of services every parent can use.
To help you find the best pediatric dentist near me, take a look at our wellness section.
We also love it when people want to share their inside knowledge. If you're interested in writing a guest post on parenting, click here.
Additionally, our personal dentist recommends reading a fun book to their kids prior to their first appointment so they know what to expect.