The first trip to a dentist can be a scary and anxious time for a child. They don’t know what to expect, and being in the exam room can be frightening for them. However, a child’s first dentist appointment is an important step in ensuring proper and healthy dental practices that will last a lifetime. Because of this, it’s important for both parents and office staff to help ease a child’s fears.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child’s first visit to the dentist should be before his or her first birthday. Properly caring for a child’s baby teeth helps children to have healthy permanent teeth as they grow older. These early visits can identify any problems your child may have and address them early, especially if there are any problems with eating or speech.

Early appointments also help your child have a comfortable relationship with the dentist, easing fears and building trust and understanding that good oral hygiene and regular dental visits are important to overall health.

A first visit to the dentist will usually include a full mouth exam, including the gums and surrounding tissue. The dentist will take digital x-rays and a health history, such as eating habits and any illnesses. The dentist will also instruct you, the parent, in proper oral care for your young child and will discuss any potential issues that may arise as your child gets older and the permanent set of teeth come in. Your child will have a cleaning and a fluoride treatment and—if old enough—will be instructed on proper brushing and flossing.

Taking your child to a dentist who specializes in children’s dentistry can make dentist appointments a more comfortable experience for your child. Not only will the pediatric dentist ease your child’s fears, he or she can also ease any fears you may have about your child’s oral health. By working together with your dentist, it is easy to teach your child how to best care for their smile so that it stays beautiful throughout his or her life.