How to prepare your kid for their first dental visit

Squirrelly toddlers and dental exams: not a winning combination, right? If you’re avoiding the “first dentist visit” page of your kid’s baby book, that’s understandable—but don’t wait too long. Many pediatric dentists recommend first visits before a child’s first birthday even though most kids don’t cut all their baby teeth until around age 2 ½. That’s because baby teeth, despite their temporary nature, are crucial to future dental health—they hold space for their permanent replacements, and decay in baby teeth increases the risk in permanent teeth later.

No need to worry your kid, though—with proper preparation, their first trip to the dentist might actually be (gasp) fun!

Choose a dentist—but not your own

You might have the kindest, funniest, most fabulous dentist on the planet, but that doesn’t mean she’s right for your child. Pediatric dentists are not just little mouth specialists, they’re little people specialists as well, knowing the perfect joke or funny face to put a frightened first-timer at ease. Your own dentist might be able to recommend someone, or you can check out the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry ( to find accredited pediatric dentists in your area.

Take a pre-appointment tour

A few weeks before your child’s first appointment, take a tour of the dentist’s office so it will be familiar when the day finally comes. Talk to the staff about procedures and policies to make sure you’re on the same page, and also take the time to observe how children are treated—especially kids who are too scared to cooperate. This is a great chance to ensure you made a good choice of dentist—and if you’re not so impressed, you can cancel the appointment later.

Introduce the concept of dental health

If you haven’t already started brushing your child’s teeth, ease them into it with a kid-size toothbrush and fun flavored toothpaste. There are also several storybooks out there about kids going to the dentist—seeing a favorite cartoon character triumph in the exam chair could be the confidence-booster your child needs.

On the big day, explain explain explain

Even if your child remembers the dentist’s office from the tour, they might not have a clear idea of what’s going to happen during the appointment. Pediatric dentists usually have kid-friendly demonstration tools, like oversized models of toothbrushes and teeth or goofy puppets, to describe exactly what they will be doing before they do it. The dentist will also explain what the various dental tools do and demonstrate how they work—trying out the spit sucker is usually a highlight.

When your child just isn’t ready

It happens—the tour is splendid, home-brushing is top-notch, and your kid delights in the pre-exam puppet show. But then it’s time to strap on the bib and open wide and…NOPE. No matter how prepared you think your child might be, there’s always the possibility they aren’t quite ready for a stranger poking around their mouth. Sometimes having your child sit on your lap during the exam helps, but not always. In this case, it’s best to thank the dentist and try again in a few months.

Need a recommendation? We can help!

Here at Town Center Dentistry, we can help recommend an excellent pediatric dentist for your child. And once they’re ready for braces, our own Dr. Gary Sanner and his decades of orthodontics experience will take their already-great smile (thanks to regular twice-a-year checkups) and make it perfect!