How to Raise Cavity-Free Kids, Part 4: Preparing for the Big Day

Your Baby’s First Birthday:

Congratulations. You have a one-year-old; your baby’s growing up. Now it’s up to you to start him or her off on the right foot, by taking him for his first visit to the dentist. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends scheduling a visit to the dentist within six months of the eruption of the first tooth or the child’s first birthday—whichever comes first.

When you take your child to the dentist at this early age, your dentist can help you in many ways. The dentist can:

  • Check for decay and other problems,
  • Teach you how to clean your child’s teeth daily,
  • Discuss harmful oral habits,
  • Discuss the role of nutrition in good oral health, and
  • Identify your child’s fluoride needs.


Preparing for the Big Day: 

It is very important that your child’s first visit to the dentist be fun and be a positive experience. Young children are often fearful of many things: of being separated from their parents, of the unknown, or of being injured. All these fears are perfectly normal, but dentists who treat children have many methods for helping anxious or fearful children comfortable in the dentist’s office.

Here are a few tips to help your dental visit go smoothly:

  • Tell your child about the visit, but don’t go into detail. Say that the dentist may want to “count” his teeth or take some pictures of them. Leave it to the dentist to answer questions about dental tools, procedures, or anything you’re unsure about. Most dentists are trained to explain things to children in non-threatening, easy-to-understand terms. 
  • Don’t tell your child that something may hurt or be painful. Don’t use words like “shots,” “needles,” or “drill.”
  • Don’t tell your child about any unpleasant dental experience you may have had. 
  • Don’t promise your child a reward for going to the dentist. 
  • Stress to your child how important it is to maintain healthy teeth and gums, and explain that the dentist will help both of you do this. 
  • Don’t make promises that the dentist can’t keep. Explain to your child that “the dentist will tell us” what needs to be done.

The best predictor of a child’s behavior in the dental office is the parent’s level of anxiety. In most cases, if the parent is anxious, the child is going to experience some difficulty.

You can play a big part in helping your child prepare for his or her first visit and set the tone for all future visits. It’s up to you to work with your child before his first visit to the dentist to make it a fun one!

By starting dental visits early, you’ll help your child build a lifetime of good dental habits. 

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