What’s the Best Age for My Child’s First Dentist Visit?

Little girl brushing her teeth in preparation for a child's first dentist visit.Just when you think you’ve finally gotten the hang of this parenting thing, and your baby is finally sleeping through the night, that first little tooth erupts.

What now? While it might seem early, as long as your child has teeth, s/he needs to be seeing the dentist every six months.

We often think of the dentist as someone you see after something has gone wrong. But your dentist has a tremendous role in making sure your child’s face, teeth, mouth, throat, and airway are all developing properly.

By the end of this article, you’ll know what to expect and what to ask your dentist at your child’s first dentist appointment.

Choose the Right Dentist

If you don’t like seeing the dentist today, it is very likely due to the experience you had at the dentist as a child.

Early positive experiences at the dentist are a gift that you can give your child that they will carry with them into adulthood. Adults who had a dentist they loved as a child are adults who take care of their teeth, enjoy optimal oral health, and avoid a lifetime of chronic pain and expensive dental procedures.

Choose a dentist who makes your child feel comfortable and safe. The right dentist will work to make you and your child feel comfortable throughout the visit. The entire staff should provide a relaxed, non-threatening environment for your child.

Before Your Child’s First Dentist Visit

The most successful first dentist visits in my experience are the ones without any surprises. Talk to the office in advance, so you know what to expect and can prepare your child for the visit. Will there be stickers for your child afterward? Is there an iPad to play with in the office? Are there great books in the waiting room? Try to build that enthusiasm for your child.

Don’t forget any medical records and to bring a complete medical history.

Schedule the appointment for a morning, when your child is alert and less likely to be close to naptime.

What to Expect at Your Child’s First Dentist Visit

Take it slow and feel free to reschedule. If your child is frightened, uncomfortable or non-cooperative, the time might not be right. A child shouldn’t be forced into it; this can build a lifetime of resentment and fear of the dentist. Be patient and reassuring.

Schedule your appointment before your child’s. Children love to watch their parents’ get their teeth cleaned or get an exam. Your dentist can enlist your child’s help by holding a mirror to show you your teeth.

If your child is under three years old, you might sit in the dental chair and hold your child during the exam.

A first dentist appointment for a child that’s only one year old might last 15 to 30 minutes.

Expect your dentist to examine your child’s teeth, jaw, bite, gums, and oral tissues.

If appropriate, your dentist or hygienist might do a teeth cleaning to remove plaque or tartar buildup on the new teeth.

What to Ask During Your Child’s First Dentist Visit: A Checklist

  • Come prepared to talk to your dentist about whether your child is breathing through the nose, mouth, or both. Nasal breathing is essential to your child’s proper development. Mouth breathing can impact a great deal about your child’s health, appearance, and quality of life. A dentist, along with an ENT physician, can help treat mouth breathing to minimize the damaging effects.
  • Ask your dentist to demonstrate how you should be brushing and flossing your child’s teeth at home.
  • Talk to your dentist about what your child eats on a daily basis. Proper nutrition not only protects your child from developing cavities, but also promotes the teeth to come in straight and the face and oral cavity to develop properly. Children with good nutrition have faces that are more attractive because they develop properly. They also sleep better because the oral cavity and back of the throat all develop as they should, allowing your child to breathe without interruptions while sleeping.
  • Talk to your dentist about whether you’re breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or using a sippy cup. When a child sucks on anything other than a mother’s nipple, the development of the mouth, swallow reflex, and oral cavity are all impacted. Work can be done by the dentist or orthodontist to reverse or control this altered development.

So, now I want to hear: what are your tips for a child’s first dentist visit? 

Mark Burhenne DDS

Dr. Burhenne is a family and sleep medicine dentist. He is dedicated to helping the world understand the connection between oral health and overall wellness through his blog, Ask the Dentist. Get Dr. Burhenne's book, The Eight Hour Sleep Paradox: How We Are Sleeping Our Way to Disease, Fatigue, and Unhappiness on Amazon.

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Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of DrGreene.com. The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or DrGreene.com, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

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  1. Scott Adams

    I like that you talked about choosing a dentist that will make your kids feel comfortable; because the experience could affect them the rest of their lives. I have been looking for someone to take my new son to, but wasn’t sure how to choose. I will have to find someone really nice, so my son won’t be afraid to go in the future.

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  2. Jackie Oliver

    My daughter’s first tooth is coming in. She is my first, so I’ve never had to take a baby to the dentist before. I like your advice on talking to your dentist about your baby’s diet. This was something I hadn’t thought about, but it makes sense. What you eat can make a huge difference on your teeth’s health, and this is no different for a baby!

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  3. Cindy Tesler

    I agree that early positive experiences for children at a dental office are something that they will carry into adulthood. You also mention choosing a dentist that makes your children feel comfortable and safe in the lobby as well. I think it’s a good idea to have your children watch you get your teeth cleaned so that they can see that it doesn’t hurt.

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  4. John Carston

    I have yet to take my kids to the dentist but I’ll have to use the advice you’ve given to make the trip more enjoyable. I think you made an important point that a positive experience at the dentist early on is a great gift to give a child as it will have positive benefits throughout their life. I’ll follow your advice and make sure there are not any surprises and they know what to expect as I and the dentist walk them through. Thanks for the helpful dentistry tips.

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  5. Jorge McMillan

    I agree with the point you make about choosing the right dentist and helping children have a good and positive experience at the dentist. I think that a good dentist will be key in that and can help a child see the importance of going to the dentist and taking care of their teeth. I can’t wait to show this to my wife and see about finding a good dentist for our kids.

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  6. Siaosi

    Know who your child is going to go to the dentist with is a good idea. I think that the best idea would be to go to someone that you have been to. Know what their ratings are.

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  7. Kenneth Gladman

    I didn’t know every six months was recommended. I guess I should get my daughter in as soon as I can. Luckily, she actually likes the dentist and she is proud of her teeth. I find using referrals is the best way to find a good dentist.

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  8. Zequek Estrada

    I agree that an early positive experience at the dentist will be beneficial in the future. My mom tells me that I had a bad experience when I was little. I don’t remember it but apparently after that it was insanely hard to get me to go to any appointments for my teeth.

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  9. Katie Anderson

    I think it’s really smart to get kids headed down the path to healthy teeth as possible. Ingraining the good habits with the help of a dentist that will help them learn how to keep their teeth clean throughout the years is really invaluable. I don’t have any kids yet, but when I do I think it would be really good to get them into the dentist as soon as possible.

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  10. Vicky Durrant

    My daughter is about to reach the age where we need to take her to the dentist. I’ve never chosen a pediatric dentist before, though, so I’m happy that I found your post! I really liked your tips, especially what you mentioned about choosing a dentist who makes my daughter feel comfortable and safe. I think that having a dentist that does this will help her to realize the importance of dental hygiene. I’ll be sure to keep this tip in mind while I search! Thank you for the advice!

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  11. Tara Allen

    Visiting the dentist every six month is something that I need to be better at doing. I am glad to know how important it is that you find a good dentist and that you have regular visits. I will have to make sure to schedule an appointment soon with my dentist so that I can keep my teeth and gums healthy.

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  12. Rockford Johnson

    Cool post! Thank you for helping me understand what age is best to start taking your kids to the dentist. I like how you said that “Early positive experiences at the dentist are a gift that you can give your child that they will carry with them into adulthood. Adults who had a dentist they loved as a child are adults who take care of their teeth, enjoy optimal oral health and avoid a lifetime of chronic pain and expensive dental procedures.” I loved my dentist growing up so the routine visits were easy and smooth for me.

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  13. Sam Wilkins

    I like what you mentioned about asking what things they provide for your child in the waiting room. An office that creates a positive environment for my child shows that they care about all of their patients. After reading this, I think it’s time to schedule my daughter’s first dentist appointment.

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  14. David Hawkins

    I think having a little child fearing a dentist is normal. Figuring out the best way to comfort them during the procedure might be tough. I know my kids respond to rewards well when visiting a dentist, but others might need something else. Thanks for posting these tips about chilren’s dentists!

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  15. Olivia Sherwin

    This is some great information, and I appreciate your advice to find a dentist that will work to make your child feel comfortable. My son gets really nervous visiting the dentist, and I want him to have positive experiences. I’ll definitely look into finding one that works with children and makes them feel comfortable while in the office. Thanks for the great post!

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  16. Tyler Bond

    It’s crazy that we should start dental appointments that early. I never see kids that young in my dentists offices, but I’m sure they have pediatric dentists that specialize in this stuff. My child is 2 and hasn’t had a dental appointment, I’ll make sure to schedule one so his teeth will end up looking as good as his moms.

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    • You are correct, young children typically see pediatric dentists. Not only do they specialize in how kids teeth and mouth change as they grow, they also tend to be great at working with young patients. It’s a real gift.

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  17. Demank

    i just tied a string arnoud my two front teeth and squeezed them together and now my gap is closed ,it only took me a few days to completely close the gap ..its been arnoud 4 years now and my gap is still closed btw i had a fairly big gap

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  18. Lily de Grey

    I loved reading this article, Dr. Burhenne! I’m glad that I stumbled upon it because I’ve been thinking about when to take my child in for his first dental visit. He’s almost one, so I’ll be sure to schedule an appointment right away. I think it’s great that I can hold him in the dental chair while the dentist is looking at his teeth. Thanks for the great tips; you’ve been very helpful!

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  19. Steven Harrison

    It seems like the phobia of the dentist is really common among people. It’s definitely in the realm of being afraid of doctors and hospitals. I appreciate your advice to approach this problem slowly and patiently. It can be good to wait for a conducive time.

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  20. Ethel

    The questions listed to ask my child’s dentist are so helpful! I will remember to ask them at the first check up. I will also use the ‘what to expect’ section to prepare myself and my child. Thanks for the post!

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  21. GERSHOM MUGIZI

    Very useful information. Thank you.

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  22. p.ketna jain

    My son is 16 month old and still has no teeth worried I am from india please help me

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  23. Alex Jennings

    Thanks for writing this article, Dr. Burhenne. I think it’s important that we’re making sure our kids’ dental health is in check. Is there a point in time when I should not accompany my child into the dental room? Obviously when they’re teenagers, but I’m wondering if it’s appropriate for under the age of 13. Thanks for sharing!

    Alex Jennings

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