Tips for Preparing Your Child for Their First Dental Exam

By: David B. Epstein, D.D.S. | Published 12/02/2021


The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that all children receive a dental exam as soon as the first tooth emerges or by the age of 12 months, whichever comes first. Taking such a young child to the dentist may bring up a few questions, including how you prepare a small child for his or her first dental exam.

David Epstein, DDS, and Nikita Vakil, DMD, of The Woodlands Dental Group are experts when it comes to caring for the dental needs of little ones. Below, we share our best tips for preparing your child for their first official visit to the dentist.

1. Read stories about oral care and dentists

While a one-year-old won’t have the most extensive vocabulary, toddlers do understand a lot of what you say. Start preparing for your trip to the dentist by reading books to your child. Head to the South Regional Library and pick up a few age-appropriate board books that explain:

  • Parts of your mouth 
  • Oral care, including how to brush your teeth
  • Who dentists are and what they do 

Looking at the pictures and hearing you talk about teeth, dentists, and cleaning your teeth can help your child feel more comfortable once the big day arrives.

2. Use child-appropriate terms

Many children fear the unknown, and a first-time visit to the dentist can be scary. That being said, when you talk about the dentist — both now and in the future — use child-friendly terms to explain the process. 

For example, many parents may refer to dentists as “tooth doctors” to help a child better understand what it is that a dentist does. 

3. Model good oral hygiene at home

Modeling good oral hygiene is one of the best ways to instill good habits in your children. This includes:

  • Scheduling your own routine cleanings
  • Brushing your teeth twice a day 
  • Flossing daily
  • Refraining from using your teeth as tools

While your child won’t be able to brush his or her teeth unattended for several years, you can make oral care fun. Play a fun song while you brush your teeth. Allow your child to pick out a new toothbrush at the store. Many toothbrushes and even toothpastes feature well-known TV characters on the packaging, which can get kids even more excited about brushing their teeth.

4. Know what to expect

You can better prepare your child for a dental exam when you know what to expect. Your child’s first dental exam is designed to acclimate your child to the dental setting, introduce your child to our friendly staff, and help your child have a good first impression with routine cleanings. 

The very first appointment is often brief, and you can expect our team to:

  • Check for signs of decay 
  • Check your child’s bite and look for any potential issues with gums or oral tissues
  • Count the number of teeth

One of the important parts of your child’s appointment is that it provides you with an excellent opportunity to ask questions about your child’s oral care. For example, you can ask about the best strategies for brushing a squirming child’s teeth, how to soothe teething pain, what to do about thumb sucking, and how dietary habits can promote their oral health. 

This first dental exam sets the tone for your child’s relationship with dental care. From routine cleanings to future pediatric dental needs — including orthodontic treatments and mouthguards for youth sports — we want to help support your child’s oral health needs now and in the future.

To start your child on their oral care journey, call 281-367-3085 to book an appointment with The Woodlands Dental Group today.

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