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Dental Checkup Tips for Parents

Going to the dentist can be stressful for both you and your child. Here are some tips to help everyone feel relaxed and ready for their dental checkups.

February 11, 2020 | HF Healthy Living Team

Regular dental checkups help protect your child’s oral health and give your child’s dentist a chance to detect problems early, when they’re most treatable. But going to the dentist can be stressful for both you and your child. Here are some tips to help everyone feel relaxed and ready for their dental checkups.

Child’s first visit?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association recommend scheduling a child’s first dental checkup after their first tooth appears and no later than their first birthday.

Before making your child’s first dental appointment, you should decide whether you want to take your child to your family dentist or to a pediatric dentist (a specialist in dental care for children). A pediatric dentist’s office is usually child-friendly and has equipment specially designed for children.

To help prepare for a dental checkup


At home:

  • Schedule checkups at a time when your child is rested and most likely to cooperate, such as early morning
  • When talking to your child about the checkup, avoid using negative words such as “pain” or “hurt”
  • Use positive words such as “clean, strong, healthy teeth” to make the visit seem fun and good for them
  • Teach your child that visiting the dentist is a necessity, not a choice. The dentist will help them take care of their teeth, fight cavities, and make sure they will have a beautiful smile for years to come
  • Before your child’s first dentist appointment, have a pretend visit at home. Count your child’s teeth with a toothbrush and have them role play with a doll, brushing their teeth
  • Give your child a general idea of what to expect. When your child is familiar with the checkup routine, they are more comfortable for the real visit
  • Ask your child if they have any questions or concerns and listen to them
  • Keep a positive attitude. If you have anxieties about going to the dentist, be careful not to share those with your child. Children can pick up parents’ anxieties and become anxious themselves
  • Avoid offering a “special treat” if your child behaves well at the dentist. This may cause them to think checkups are bad and require a reward. Instead, just praise your child for their good behavior and bravery after the visit. You can also surprise your child with a sticker or a small toy every once in a while

At the dentist:

  • Let the dentist or oral hygienist guide you, as they have experience dealing with children in their office. They know what to say and do when children are being fussy or fearful
  • Give the dentist your child’s complete health history and tell them if your child tends to be stubborn, defiant, anxious, or afraid during checkups. This way, the dentist will know the best way to accommodate your child

After your child’s checkup, the dentist or oral hygienist will discuss your child’s oral health, their risk of tooth decay, and other oral health concerns, and will offer tips on improving and protecting your child’s oral health. It will also be recommended when to return for a follow-up visit (usually every six months). More-frequent checkups might be suggested if your child is at high risk of tooth decay or has other oral health concerns.

There are many dentists in the Healthfirst network, including pediatric dentists (pedodontists). If you are a Healthfirst member or are considering becoming one and need help finding a dentist for your child, visit



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© 2020 HF Management Services, LLC.

Healthfirst is the brand name used for products and services provided by one or more of the Healthfirst group of affiliated companies.

This health information or program is for educational purposes only and not intended to treat, diagnose, or act as a substitute for medical advice from your provider. Consult your healthcare provider and always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.

“Dental exam for children.” The Mayo Clinic. Accessed February 1, 2020.

“A Child’s First Dental Visit Fact Sheet.” University of Rochester Medical Center. Accessed February 1, 2020.

“8 Tips to Help Kids Overcome Fear of Dentists.” Port, Dina Roth. February 1, 2020.

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