When should I take my child to the dentist for the first time?

The Top 3 Questions You Should Ask Before Your Child’s First Dental Exam

You have tons of questions when you have a child. When should they start walking? When should they start talking? But there are other questions you may not be asking, such as, “When should I take my child to the dentist for the first time?”

Scheduling your child’s first dental appointment is a key component in maintaining their overall health. To make sure they get started on the right foot, we’ve compiled our top tips for the top three questions you may have about taking your child to the dentist for the first time:

  1. When should I take my child to the dentist for the first time?
  2. How do I prepare my child for their first dentist appointment?
  3. What should I expect during my child’s first dental visit?

Knowing when to take your child in for their first dental appointment is about more than getting them used to the dentist’s chair. It’s about ensuring that they have a lifetime of good oral health!

1. When should I take my child to the dentist for the first time?

The ADA recommends taking your baby to the dentist as soon as:

  • Their first tooth comes in


  • Before their first birthday

Choose whichever comes first. The important thing is to bring them to the dentist’s office between 6 and 12 months old. This will guarantee that your child’s dentist is able to inspect their incoming baby teeth along with other important aspects of their oral development. 

6 to 12 months may seem a bit young to some people, which isn’t uncommon. Dentists once recommend waiting much longer to bring your child in for their first dental appointment; between 6 and 12 months, or within 6 months of their first tooth coming in. A recent survey showed that one in six parents thought waiting until their child was four years old or older was ideal!

It helps if you think of your child’s first dentist visit as preventative rather than diagnostic. Dental problems like tooth decay start much younger than four years old, and dental disease is the most chronic disease experienced among children.

2. How do I prepare my child for their first dentist appointment?

Being scared of the dentist starts at a young age for many people. That’s why being afraid of the dentist is common for so many adults. You’re actually helping prevent this fear by starting your child early! Not only will they be less likely to be afraid of the dentist, but those good habits will prevent any dental problems from occurring for a long time.

That’s why it’s so important to prepare your child for their first dental appointment. Fortunately, this is relatively easy to do. You can start by not scheduling his appointment during naptime. Instead, opt for a time when they’re fully rested so they’ll be in a better mood.

Another way to prevent fussiness is to feed them a light meal and clean their teeth before the appointment. This will do more than make them calm for the dentist. It will also make the first appointment go a lot more quickly and smoothly.

Teach your child that the dentist’s office is a fun place to visit. Speak in a positive tone when discussing the dentist and use positive language. Doing so all the way to the exam room can help them be much more cooperative for their appointment.

You also want to prevent your child from becoming bored while waiting for their appointment. Pack some of their favorite toys to keep them entertained before their appointment. It’s also a good idea to reward them for doing a great job afterward, like a trip to their favorite park or lunch at their favorite restaurant. Just don’t give them any candy!

No matter how much you prepare, there’s still a chance that they won’t cooperate. Don’t worry if this happens to you. Dentists with pediatric experience know how to handle those kinds of situations. The goal here is to ensure that your child won’t be afraid to come back for another visit.

3. What should I expect during my child’s first dental visit?

Remember that the reason for your child’s first dental visit is to evaluate their oral health and development. To make sure everything is developing properly during your child’s appointment, at Arlington Family Dental, we look at your child’s:

  • Teeth 
  • Gums
  • Jaw

We also inspect anything else necessary to make sure they have good oral health and that their teeth are developing properly. While doing this, we will keep a lookout for any cavities or mouth injuries that may need addressing. Our hygienists make sure they leave their appointment with sparkling clean teeth as a part of their exam. 

But we won’t stop there. Your child’s oral health and development is our top priority, so we’ll want to discuss their:

  • Pacifier usage
  • Thumb-sucking habits
  • Eating and drinking habits
  • Risk of tooth decay
  • Fluoride intake

We don’t usually take X-rays at this age since your child’s baby teeth will eventually be replaced by adult teeth. With that said, we may recommend an x-ray if your child is at high risk for tooth decay or if the development of their baby teeth could affect the health of their adult teeth. We’ll recommend any preventative treatments necessary, oral health tips, and suggestions like how to choose the best toothbrush

Just like for yourself, you should schedule another dental appointment for your child six months after their first one. It’s actually not unheard of for some parents to schedule a checkup for three months later. This can help your child grow used to visiting the dentist more often, as well as get more instructions on maintaining their oral health.

Final Thoughts

Dentists advise scheduling your child’s first dental appointment as soon as their first tooth comes in or before their first birthday. Do your best to ensure that they’re in a good mood and cooperative during their visit, but don’t feel bad if it still doesn’t work. Lastly, know what to expect during the appointment to ensure a lifetime of good oral health for your child.

Knoxville Family Dental has two locations in Knoxville to better serve you. You can call Knoxville West at (865) 691-1121 or you can schedule an appointment online. To make an appointment with Knoxville East, call (865) 544-1711 or make an appointment online.

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