Oh, Baby!—Your Child’s First Dental Exam 

How soon is too soon? You might be asking yourself that question when it comes to your baby’s first visit to the dentist—or, in the chaos of bottles and middle-of-the-night diaper changes, you may not have given that question a thought! Wherever you fall on the spectrum, we’re here for you. And it’s important to understand that even if tiny teeth haven’t fully emerged in your baby’s mouth yet, that doesn’t mean they can’t see a dentist!  

Scheduling your son or daughter’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? 
  1. How do I prepare my child for their first dentist appointment? 
  1. What should I expect during the 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.  

At first glance, 6 to 12 months may seem a bit young to some people. Dentists once recommended waiting much longer to bring your child in for their first dental appointment—even up to 6 months after their first tooth had come in. A recent survey showed that one in six parents thought waiting until their child was four years old or older was ideal! 

It may help if you think of it this way: that first visit is preventative, not diagnostic. Cavities know no age limits! Dental problems like tooth decay start much younger than four years old, and dental disease is the most chronic disease experienced among children. Preventing these problems at the outset is crucial.  

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

Fear of the dentist is quite common. By starting young, even as young as 6 to 12 months, you will begin the process of teaching your child that going to the dentist is normal and nothing to fear—it’s what they’ve always done.  

To promote positive associations and help the visit go smoothly, we’ve compiled a few strategies for you. First of all, a cardinal rule: never schedule an appointment during naptime! Your baby won’t be happy, and you won’t, either. 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 speeds up the visit itself and provides the added bonus of calming them down! 

As they grow up, 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 early childhood appointments. 

You also want to prevent your young 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 Chattanooga 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. 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 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. There are some basic strategies you can implement 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. 

About Our Team

Our team of dental experts has well over 30 years of combined experience in the field of dentistry. 

To learn more about them, please visit our team page or contact us here!