As soon as your child’s first tooth comes in, it’s time for a trip to the dentist. The first visit to our offices should be a happy experience for your child where we introduce them to our friendly staff and let them get to know us. This early relationship building helps them to trust that we are there to help them, whether it’s just a checkup or to do some dental work. We want them to be comfortable knowing that they will always leave feeling good.
The first visit to the dentist will set the tone for all future visits for your child. By making the dentist an inviting place to be, the child will feel more at ease and willing to cooperate while we examine teeth, check for irregularities, and apply fluoride treatments.
Your child’s first visit to the dentist should be a pleasant experience. Reinforcing that the dentist office is a safe place will make future trips more bearable and hopefully establish a habit of periodic checkups, cleanings, and when necessary, dental work. On the first visit, it’s important not to overwhelm your child, so the less that needs to be done, the easier they will acclimate to the setting and procedure.
Age of First Visit
The first trip to the dentist for kids should occur within 6 months of the first tooth appearing. Babies may sprout teeth as early as 4 months, but some may not get them until 12-14 months. Even if your child is a late bloomer, we recommend the first visit happen before the child turns 1 year old.
What to Expect
During the first visit, we perform minimal procedures just to get an idea of the child’s dental health, which will include:
- Professional Cleaning
- Fluoride Application
By minimizing the amount of procedures done (and minimizing or eliminating any discomfort), the child will find that a trip to the dentist is no big deal. We specialize in making children feel comfortable and helping parents be at ease by answering any questions, checking for any dental issues, and showing the proper way to care for your child’s teeth. Establishing a firm habit of proper dental care will keep you and your child smiling for years to come.
Infants and Toddlers (6mos-3yrs)
Introducing your child to our friendly staff early on will make them feel at ease in their “dental home”. The dental home aims to make children feel comfortable while maintaining proper oral health and creating a lasting habit of proper care of teeth and gums.
An early introduction to the dentist will help your child feel more comfortable as time goes on. Within 6 months of your child’s first tooth erupting, they should be brought into our office and introduced to the NABA family; this introduction is known as “establishing a dental home” for your child and is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD).
The first visit is primarily to establish a relationship with you, the parent, as well as with your child. When establishing a dental home for your child, our professionally trained and friendly staff will:
- Review your child’s medical history
- Thoroughly examine and clean your child’s teeth, which may include x-rays and a fluoride treatment depending on their necessity
- Address any issues that could affect the development of primary (baby) and secondary (adult) teeth
- Teach your child how to brush and take care of their teeth so they can learn proper oral hygiene early on
- Answer any questions you or your child may have during the first visit
We will not perform involved procedures on the first visit, because the focus is on familiarizing your child with the dentist office and routine checkups. Since we want to make children feel comfortable when they come into the dentist office, we also refrain from using words that may sound scary to the child, such as “needle,” “shot,” and “drill”. We go to great lengths to make the entire dental experience feel like a fun and inviting adventure for the child so that they get to experience the dentist in a way that makes them feel comfortable being at our office and interacting with the NABA team.
Preschoolers and School-Aged Kids (3-12yrs)
A child’s first visit to the dentist or to a new dentist office is a time for bonding. We introduce them to our friendly staff and show them around the office, allowing them to see that they are in a safe space. We take great care to make the child feel comfortable, including letting parents join their child during procedures.
Even if your child’s first visit isn’t until after they’ve developed a full set of teeth, we encourage you to bring them in. An oral exam will determine the overall health of the teeth and gums, and can give us and you some insight into how to maintain your child’s teeth.
We will help make the dentist office feel like a safe place for your child; somewhere they can learn and have fun while also understanding what it means to take care of their teeth. While we love having a parent be in the room with a child for a procedure, sometimes, on a child’s first visit, they like the independence and special privilege to experience the dentist on their own for the first time. If they feel more comfortable having a parent join them, we absolutely welcome that.
We don’t like performing dental work on the first visit, but rather just introducing the child to our friendly staff, showing them our office, and teaching them about teeth. During an older child’s first visit to NABA Dental, we will:
- Review your child’s medical history. If they have been to another dentist before, we will also review their dental history.
- Fully examine and clean your child’s teeth. We may include x-rays and a fluoride treatment depending on your child’s specific oral needs.
- Screen for any tooth decay, bone irregularities, tooth spacing and alignment, and the effect of childhood habits on teeth, such as thumb sucking, pacifiers, and bottles.
- Discuss proper brushing techniques and how to care for teeth so that they have a firm grasp on oral hygiene.
- Address any questions or concerns you or your child may have.
During the first visit, we also like to avoid scary words such as “drill” or “shot”. By making the dental office feel safe and secure, a child will be more at ease and cooperative. A lot of times, the presence of a parent during the initial exam will keep them calm, but an introduction to a kid-friendly environment may be enough to help them overcome any fear during a visit. When they come back for future visits, they’ll find the same friendly environment. We take great pride in children’s dental health, and we can help keep your child healthy through the use of expert care in a friendly place.
Some children can be especially fearful while separated from their parents, particularly in an unfamiliar place. We do all we can to make them comfortable, but we still welcome parents to come back with their child during any procedures to talk to them or comfort them while we clean and restore their teeth.
Every child responds differently to coming to the dentist. Some of them like the adventure of doing this on their own, while others are more comfortable having a parent with them. We encourage parents to come back with their child for the first visit, whether it’s a simple exam and cleaning, or a more involved treatment. Due to the space available in the dental office, we recommend that only one parent join their child, and should there be a treatment needed, discuss with our staff whether a parental presence should be needed and which parent would best be with the child.
When future treatments are needed, it’s usually best to allow the child to come with us without a parent present, as this allows your child to become more familiar with our staff. Cleanings and regular checkups are the best times to let your child come back alone, as these procedures are completely painless and give us an opportunity to bond with your child. We will talk with them, make sure they are comfortable, and address any fears they might have in a calming manner. We want your child to be as comfortable as possible when they come to visit us, not only for their peace of mind, but because it also helps shorten the time needed for a visit; a fast visit will help the child feel more comfortable.
If your child is still very anxious about a treatment after their first, you are more than welcome to come back with them. For the safety and privacy of all of our patients though, we ask that you not bring other children who are not having any dental work done along with you to the dental office, but rather leave them with a supervising adult in the waiting room.
It’s very natural to be scared about going to the dentist. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources from books to playing with your child that will go a long way toward easing their fears. By making trips to the dentist fun, your child will be cooperative and comfortable.
Before and after visiting the dentist, we recommend gently preparing your child for the experience by:
- Avoiding scary words
- Reading children’s books
- Showing by example
- Distracting them in the waiting room
- Rewarding after a visit
1. Avoiding scary words
While dental vocabulary may seem innocent to many, certain words can really spark fear in kids. With children, the best policy is to speak to them on their level by remaining positive, using words they understand, and preparing them to understand what happens at the dentist. By replacing scary language with new lingo that makes it seem fun or silly for the child can alleviate fears. For example:
- Instead of saying exam, you could say counting their teeth.
- Instead of saying cavity, you could say tooth bug.
- Instead of saying filling, you could say filling up the house the bug left.
- Instead of saying crown, you could say their teeth is getting a king.
2. Reading children’s books
Kids love a good story, and using a story with pictures about the dentist shows them that it’s normal to feel scared at first, but in the end, the dentist is their friend and wants to help them. There are a lot of great children’s books available that can make a child feel more relaxed about going to the dentist, including:
- Barney Goes to the Dentist by L.C. Dowdy and Dennis Full
- Little Bill: A Visit to the Dentist by E. Fremont
- The Bernstein Bears Visit the Dentist by Stan and Jan Bernstein
There are also books available for special needs patients, including:
- Going to the Dentist by Cindy Bailey
- It’s Okay to be Different by Todd Parr
- Joey Goes to the Dentist by Candace Vittorini and Sara Boyer-Quick
3. Showing by example
You can show your child that there is nothing to be afraid of by making regular visits to the best dentist in Houston. We will help you take care of your teeth and at the same time, you’ll be showing your children that we want to help keep them healthy. Children often learn by watching their parents, so setting an example for them will go a long way toward teaching them proper dental hygiene.
Playing “dentist” with your child is another way to open them up to going to the dentist. It encourages a safe activity while familiarizing them with what they may be doing. Have them practice opening their mouth while you clean their teeth with a toothbrush. Count their teeth using a finger to prepare them for a dental exam given by our staff.
4. Distracting them in the waiting room
While in the waiting room, keep your child occupied by playing a quiet game with them while they wait. If you are worried about the procedure your child is about to undertake, do your best not to show concern. We will always do our best to make sure a child is comfortable for any procedure, but they may pick up on your anxiety and in turn become anxious. You’re welcome to stay with your child even into the procedure, so let them know you’ll always be nearby if they feel nervous.
5. Rewarding after a visit
Rewarding a child after they visit the dentist will also reinforce that what they’re doing is good. While it’s probably best not to reward them with candy, you can arrange a trip to the park, get a small toy, or give some other small reward that will keep them focused on the enjoyment after a dentist visit, rather than the visit itself.