Make Your Kid’s First Dental Visit Worthwhile With This Guide

child in clinic with teddy bear

Your child’s first dental visit occurs within six months after the first appearance of a tooth (teething) or by the time your kid reaches the age of one.

If it’s your first time taking your child to a pediatric dentist, chances are you don’t know what to expect and what the experience would be like.

Good thing we got a quick guide to help you answer all your questions. Or maybe, ease your anxiety.

Read along to learn more.

Pediatric dentist vs. General Dentist

The first question you might want to answer is the difference between a pediatric and a general dentist. 

What sets a pediatric dentist from a general dentist is training and experience. Pediatric dentists require four years of undergraduate studies and another four years of dental school. After those years, students must take two additional years of education, focusing solely on pediatric dentistry. 

Aspiring pediatric dentists study child behavior, development, psychology, and other specialty programs to train themselves in handling children, particularly those with special needs.

General dentists are also expected to have four years of undergraduate studies and additional four years of dental school (Plus a one-year residency). The difference, however, is that students taking general dentistry are no longer required to get additional training beyond dental school and residency to start treating patients. 

Another difference is that pediatric dentists use specialized equipment or materials that suit children best.

kids smiling pediatric dentistry

Things to expect during your first dental visit

A pediatric dental clinic is exactly what you imagine: a fun and child-friendly environment. Like any other dental institution, it has the same standard operating procedures but is more tailored to the needs of children. Dental consultations and treatments may appear like a simple yet fruitful dialogue between the dentist, parents, and children.

Depending on your child’s oral health and age, their first dental visit may take 30 to 45 minutes. And it may require little to no treatment. Your dentist may start speaking with your child about the importance of oral health to set the mood and minimize anxiety. During the process, kids may be taught how to brush and floss their teeth properly.

Your child’s initial dental visit also includes a complete examination (e.g., X-ray) of teeth, bite, gums, jaw, and oral tissues. The dental expert may look for issues concerning teeth development, such as enamel defects, premature eruption, and failed tooth eruption. 

If advised, your child may undergo teeth cleaning, where tartar or plaque is removed through polishing.

In general, the first dental experience is partly educational, where your pediatric  dentist gives information on the following:

  • Best oral hygiene practices and proper nutrition
  • Tooth decay and cavity prevention
  • Early oral habits such as thumb sucking and tongue thrusting
  • Tooth development
  • Teething

As you consider these pieces of information pivotal, you’re paving the way for how your child will take oral health now and as they grow up. Another thing is how or what you should prepare for as you visit the dentist. 

child with doctor

How Should Parents Prepare For Their Kid’s First Trip to the Dentist

If you’re experiencing dental anxiety yourself, try not to let this feeling ruin your child’s first dental consultation. One reason is that a study shows dental fear is 30 % heritable.

Nevertheless, there are ways to make your trip to the dentist, if not without challenges, fun and worthwhile. 

Anticipate how your child would react

Before visiting the dentist, knowing how your child would react to being with another person or in an uncomfortable situation can be a great approach. It can be predicted, given that certain behaviors are associated with your child’s age. 

To guide you, here are the behaviors you might notice as your child develop emotional maturity.

Age Behavior
6-12 months
  • Tends to be easily upset; active and gentle
  • Enjoys social interaction
  • Can differentiate familiar and unfamiliar situations
  • May be sensitive to the presence of other people, especially children
  • Separation anxiety may begin in the child’s 10th month
  • Identifies and responds to positive recognition
  • Can be uncooperative
  • May display tantrums
2-3 years old
  • Your child becomes more independent
  • Independence can be mixed with a continued need for adult support
  • Begins to play interactively with their peers and show “pretend play”
  • Starts to build a sense of empathy
  • Develops more advanced social play skills (e.g., sharing and turn-taking)
4 - 5 years old
  • Recognizes the world in a bigger picture
  • Sees differences in people (e.g., relationships, sex, and race)
  • Enjoy lots of physical games as well as stories 
  • Starts developing a sense of humor and will laugh at funny situations


In terms of anticipating your child’s behavior during your first visit to the dentist, referring to these data can help you prepare and respond accordingly. Here’s how.

Set the tone from the get-go

For babies six to twelve months old, setting the stage right is the key. Schedule a time when your child is at their peak of happiness and playfulness, not when they’re not well fed or often sleepy. 

Kids between the ages of two and three can pick vocal cues and subtle body language. Sharing information about where you’re going and why it can be exciting can stir their enthusiasm. 

You want to keep things simple, though. So, instead of saying, “we’re going to the dentist,” you can tell them, “we’ll meet a friend from work (school), and he’s gonna tell us something about keeping our mouth clean.” 

The point here is that in every milestone your child achieves, it’s important that they feel they have your company. And the same thing goes when they visit the dentist for the first time.

Educate them about the benefits

When they’ve reached the age of four or six, reading books about going to the dentist will also allow them to imagine the person they’re meeting and the experience they’re about to have. Somehow, it helps them realize that the dentist is someone they can befriend and not fear.

Here are some of the best books that most experts recommend:

  • Dora Goes to the Dentist by Random House
  • Brush, Brush, Brush by Alicia Padron
  • Just Going to the Dentist by Mercer Meyer
  • ABC Dentist by Harriet Ziefert
  • Vera Goes to the Dentist by Vera Rosenberry
  • The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist by Stan Berenstain
  • Clark the Shark: Tooth Trouble by Bruce Hale 
  • Curious George Visits the Dentist by H. A. Rey 

Choose the Best Pediatric Dentist in Culver City

No kid should suffer from unwanted oral problems in the early years of their childhood, much less as they grow up. That’s why you must take the necessary steps to ensure their oral health gets its due attention as early as possible. 

So if you’re looking for a pediatric dentist in Culver City or its adjacent cities, call Culver City Dentist United Dental Care. (310) 390-6000

Book an appointment to get the top-notch dental services and care your child deserves.


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