Although we’ve all had the experience of our own dental appointments, parents may be wondering what to expect when they take their child to see the dentist. Parents often ask questions regarding what types of procedures their child will need and how they can best prepare them. To help you understand the process, we’re breaking down what you can expect at your child’s routine check-up.
1. You’ll Be Asked To Fill Out Paperwork
Once you get to your pediatric dentist’s office, you’ll need to fill out some paperwork for your child. This will include medical and dental history and previous treatments. You also need to provide insurance information or other dental savings plan details for your child. It’s a good idea to have these details with you to make the initial paperwork process easier.
2. X-Ray Imaging of Your Child’s Teeth and Jaw
After the paperwork is done, the first step is usually to get x-rays of the teeth and jaw so the dentist can have a more detailed look at your child’s development. You can accompany your child to the room where they will be asked to sit in the patient’s chair. This can often be the scariest part of the appointment for young kids, even more so than an actual procedure, so it’s important to be calm and reassuring! Let them know the x-ray process won’t hurt at all and it will be over quickly.
The dental technician will cover your child’s body with a lead apron to reduce radiation exposure from the x-rays. Your child will be instructed to bite down on some trays to get clear imaging during the x-ray process, which is completely painless. You will need to briefly step out of the room while the x-ray is taken, but won’t have to go far and will be allowed to return immediately after.
3. Initial Exam by the Pediatric Dentist
After a short time, the x-ray images are ready for the dentist to inspect. The dentist will then recline the patient’s chair to have a look at your child’s teeth. This part is just to inspect the teeth and gums for any visible cavities, abnormalities or other issues. They will use special tools, such as a dental mirror, probe or scaler, to closely examine the teeth at this time. Depending on what they see in the x-ray images and the exam, your dentist can diagnose tooth decay or cavities and recommend a treatment.
4. Share Your Concerns With the Dentist
We also encourage parents to write down any questions or concerns they may have before arriving at the dentist’s office. Some common concerns include:
- Teething pain
- Thumb-sucking or pacifier habits
- Plaque buildup
- Struggling with brushing consistency
- Gum and teeth sensitivity
- Overall oral hygiene habits
- Braces for misalignments
All too often, parents will get distracted or sidetracked, especially when they have multiple children with them at the appointment. Writing your questions down will help to make sure you run all your concerns by your child’s dentist during the exam.
5. Routine Dental Cleaning
Some pediatric dentists choose to do teeth cleaning first, but some dentists will conduct the initial exam and x-rays before. In any case, dental cleanings should be done every six months to remove plaque and tartar from your child’s teeth that could result in tooth decay and gum disease. Your child’s teeth cleaning will involve these steps:
- The hygienist will use scalers to physically remove tartar from the surface of the teeth.
- A high-powered electronic brush and a gritty toothpaste are used to polish and clean the teeth.
- The mouth is rinsed and the hygienist then flosses the teeth—sometimes using a water pick.
- If fluoride treatment is needed, it’s usually done at this time.
You are allowed to be with your child during the cleaning, which can help keep them happy and calm. For very young children, parents may be asked to have their kids sit in their lap during the cleaning.
6. Additional Procedures or Treatments
Depending on whether or not your child has cavities or other dental problems, your dentist may recommend treatments that can be done during the same appointment. Your child may need a dental filling, which is generally a quick procedure and shouldn’t take up too much additional time. Your dentist may also suggest that your child has a fluoride treatment to strengthen the teeth’s enamel.
In some cases, a more complicated procedure will be necessary, and an additional appointment will have to be scheduled. Although it’s rare, your child may need a pulpectomy or tooth extraction for more severe dental decay. You may also be referred to an orthodontist if your child’s teeth have alignment issues that could be fixed with braces.
Tips to Prepare Your Child for Their Dental Appointments
Understand That Your Child May Feel Nervous
It’s common for children to feel anxious about going to the dentist. It can be intimidating to not fully understand what is happening or why these things need to happen. We encourage parents to talk openly with their kids about what they can expect and why routine visits to the dentist are so important. For younger children, try reading books about the dentist or watching a short video that could help them visualize what to expect.
Timing Is Everything
Leading up to the appointment, do your best to make sure your child is rested, fed and is not sick at the time. Feeling tired, hungry or unwell can lead to children feeling anxious and stressed before an appointment, as well as create a negative association with the dentist.
Your dental office will often provide distractions for your child during procedures. This could be playing some music or have a kid-friendly TV show in the background. You can also bring headphones and play your kid’s favorite songs while the cleaning or treatment is taking place. If your child has a favorite stuffed toy or blanket, you should definitely bring it with you to help keep those nerves at bay.
Choosing a Pediatric Dentist
Overall, the process for your child’s dental appointment is going to be similar at most dental offices. However, the difference is in the approach and the time taken to make you and your child feel comfortable. When choosing a pediatric dentist, be sure to look at reviews and testimonials to see what other patients are saying, in addition to the location and services offered. You should feel confident that your child is getting the best dental care, which includes a warm and welcoming environment that promotes a positive dental experience.