700 Children's Blog

What to Expect at Your Child's First Dental Appointment

Feb 04, 2016

Have you ever wondered when your child should visit a dentist for the first time? If so, you are among many parents who frequently ask the question. And like many parents, you may be surprised by the answer; “First visit by first birthday.”

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Dental Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children have their first dental check-up by their first birthday. It may be hard to comprehend what would happen at the visit when there are only a few teeth in the mouth, but dental problems can begin early.

More than 1 in 4 children in the US have had at least one cavity by the age of 4, so it is too late to wait until age 3 or 4 for the first check up and delay the benefits of preventive services. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

What should you expect for the first visit?

  • Typically, a quick appointment where most of the time is spent talking with the parent.
  • A series of questions to identify any risk factors that may impact the child’s oral health.
  • Be prepared to answer questions about your child’s medical conditions, diet and feeding practices, teething, habits such as pacifier or thumb-sucking, brushing, and exposure to fluoride.
  • An examination in a ‘knee-to-knee’ position.

In the knee-to-knee position, you and the dentist sit on chairs facing each other with your child sitting on your lap, facing you. You then lower the child’s head onto the dentist’s lap so you and dentist can see clearly into your child’s mouth and your child can look up at you.

The dentist will thoroughly assess the overall growth and development, teeth and oral tissues. If plaque is present on the teeth, the dentist may clean the teeth with a soft toothbrush and demonstrate the appropriate method for cleaning. Depending on your child’s risk for tooth decay, topical fluoride may or may not be placed on your child’s teeth. If your child cries during the exam that is normal behavior for the age and no need to worry.

After the exam the dentist will give you useful tips regarding:

  • Teething and development.
  • How to prevent cavities.
  • Proper use of fluoride.
  • Ways to prevent accidents and trauma to the teeth.
  • Diet and oral hygiene instructions.

This is a good time to make sure all your questions have been answered. Finally, based on your child’s risk factors and oral health status, a follow-up visit schedule will be recommended. Routine evaluations are recommended every 6 months.

If your family dentist does not feel comfortable seeing very young children, look for a pediatric dentist. Age 1 dental visit can help your child with a healthy smile for a lifetime!

Featured Expert

Homa Amini, DDS, MPH, MS
Pediatric Dentistry, Section Chief

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700 Children’s features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.