Your Child’s First Dental Visit – What to Expect

Regular dental checkups are an essential part of maintaining your child’s oral health.

That’s why it’s recommended that parents schedule their child’s first dental visit after the eruption of their first tooth, or by one year of age, whichever comes first.


But, these early visits are generally just quick checkups to ensure your infant’s teeth are coming in properly. The first full dental visit is a whole different story!

Most full checkups will involve cleaning, x-rays, a visual counting and inspection of teeth, and a fluoride treatment.

Teeth Cleaning

The first step in most dental visits is teeth cleaning, performed by a dental hygienist.

The process starts with the hygienist doing a quick inspection of your child’s mouth, to ensure there are no visible issues with the teeth or gums.

Then, they will use tools to remove plaque and tartar buildup, and polish the surface of the teeth once they are clean.

Finally, your child’s mouth will get a thorough rinsing to remove any remaining debris.

To ensure your child has a positive experience throughout the process, it’s a good idea to look for a dental office that has hygienists experienced in working with children.

Curious kids may find it easier to sit still if they’re shown and told about the tools that will be used. Nervous children may benefit from having their parents close by during the process, or even just having a favorite toy to hold.


For most children, dental x-rays won’t be performed until five or six years of age, or once your child has a full set of teeth.

If your child is getting their first x-rays, the hardest part will generally be holding the x-ray film in their mouth to get proper images of the teeth.

For this reason, some dentists prefer to take panoramic x-rays instead. These x-rays use a special device to capture a 360-degree x-ray of the entire mouth and jaw.

If your child’s dentist performs panoramic x-rays, then your child may receive x-rays before they have a full set of teeth.

Oral Examination

With the cleaning and x-rays completed, the dentist is finally ready to perform a visual and inspection of the mouth, including the teeth, gums, lips, cheek linings and tongue.

Your child’s dentist will count their teeth and look for any potential trouble signs.

These could include signs of damage or decay on teeth, early signs of cavities, inflammation of the gums, or signs of crowding.

Your child’s dentist will then provide you with recommendations for optimal oral health, as well as a treatment plan to deal with any issues, if necessary.

Fluoride Treatment

Finally, your child will likely be given a fluoride treatment to help strengthen the teeth and prevent cavities.

Decades ago, fluoride had a toothpaste-like consistency, and was applied at the end of the tooth cleaning process in dental trays that were held in the mouth for a period of time.

Modern fluoride, however, is generally applied as a varnish that is painted onto teeth in just seconds, which is why it is generally done at the end of the checkup.

The flavored fluoride varnish will be carefully applied to the surfaces of your child’s teeth. You’ll be advised to have your child avoid hot beverages and hard or crunchy foods for a certain timeframe.

At their next regular at-home brushing, the varnish will be brushed away, leaving your child’s teeth stronger and more resistant to tooth decay.

child smiling and showing teeth

Most dentists will recommend that children be seen every six months, to ensure their teeth are growing properly and that there are no signs of decay.

Ensuring your child receives essential dental services for kids is a crucial part of helping your little ones develop good oral hygiene habits and creating a positive association with dental care.

Talk with your kids about what to expect, stay calm and patient if they get nervous, and make sure to give them plenty of praise every step of the way.

Before you know it, they’ll be eagerly looking forward to their next trip to the dentist!

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