National Dentist Day! What to Expect When You Take Your Kiddos to the Dentist


Happy National Dentist Day! Are you a tired mama in the throws of surviving the teething months? Maybe you’re starting to wonder what you’re supposed to do to take care of those little teeth but you can’t muster the energy to do the legwork to figure that out. And, when do you take your kids to the dentist, anyway? AND…what kind of dentist? ARGH.
We’re doing the heavy lifting on this one for you. Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about kiddos and the dentist along with the answers. Some are from super credible sources like the American Dental Association and some are from super credible sources like the Richmond Moms Blog contributor team. 🙂  

1. When should you take your child to the dentist for the first time? 

According to the ADA, you should actually take your child to the dentist when the first tooth appears and at least by his/her first birthday. Seems early to you? Me too, but, truth is, once your kiddos have their first teeth, they can also develop their first cavities. YIKES. Aside from the medical reasons, I’ve always found that the earlier I’ve been able to introduce my kids to new situations, including the dentist, the better off we all are. Not sure what the right age is for your kiddo? Your own dentist should be able to point you in the right direction.  

2. Should I take my child to a pediatric dentist or a general dentist? 

Based on our research, the answer to this question often depends on who you ask. Pediatric dentists are the ‘pediatricians of dentistry’, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and they have 2 to 3 years of specialty training following dental school. That said, many general dentists treat children, as well. So, we recommend asking your own dentist and your child’s pediatrician for their recommendation. 

3. How often do kids need to go to the dentist? 

Just like you and I, kids should have a regular check-up every 6 months. 🙂  

4. What should parents expect to happen at their child’s first visit? 

The first visit will be fairly low-key. You can expect the dentist to make sure your child’s teeth and jaw are developing properly. He or she will spend most of that first trip simply examining your child’s mouth to make sure everything looks as it should, without cavities or injuries. Once the examination is complete, the dentist will clean your child’s teeth. Easy peasy. Our first trip to the dentist was far less ‘invasive’ and took less time than I expected. 

5. Any tips on making that first trip easier or easing nervousness around going to the dentist? 

Our group of mamas recommends a couple of ways to get your little prepped for his or her first visit: 

  • Use books and websites to get ready. There are many books available at the library and for purchase that will share info with your child on what that first visit will entail. The ADA also has a great website, Mouth Healthy Kids, that has resources, games, and videos to help acclimate your kiddos for their first visit.
  • Use role playing to help share with your child what they can expect at that first visit. This Alma’s Designs Dentist Kit is soft and perfect for kids to use on their dolls, their parents, or each other. Or, if you’d rather skip being the patient, this PLAYMOBIL Dentist and Patient Playset would be perfect. 
  • Take a tour of the office before the actual visit. We did this with both of our kids just by having them come to the dentist with us. They sat in the waiting room, came back while we had our check-ups and then were able to sit in the big chair, just for fun. It really helped to lessen any fears and make the whole experience more comfortable. 

6. What if my special needs child has serious anxiety or nervousness? 

Rest assured, you are in a great area for this. Most likely, a pediatric dentist would be a better fit for kiddos who are especially nervous or uncertain about their trip to the dentist. One of our writers, Kate Fletcher, describes her family’s first visits to the dentist as ‘epic disasters’. She now takes her kiddos to Dr. William O. Dahlke, Jr at VCU School of Dentistry because of his experience in caring for special needs children. These days, the Fletcher family’s visits to the dentist are 100% tear-free. SCORE! 

7. AND….EEK!! When should my child see the orthodontist? 

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that all children have a check-up with an orthodontic specialist, a dentist that specializes for 2-3 years beyond dental school in straightening the teeth and aligning the bite, no later than age 7.

WHAT the WHAT? Braces at age 7?? 

To be clear, seven is the recommended age for SCREENING, not the recommended age for braces. 🙂 At age 7, the incisors and first molars have started to erupt and the bite is becoming established. According to Dr. Melanie Spears, orthodontist with Virginia Family Dentistry, this visit allows the orthodontist to evaluate your child’s teeth and jaw development and identify any potential problems.  Early detection and the appropriate treatment can be helpful in reducing orthodontic problems as your child grows. 

So, happy National Dentist Day! Hopefully, we’ve helped answer some of your questions and, at a minimum, pointed you in the direction of resources that can help you further. Have a cute pic of your little one at the dentist? Post their pic in the comments! 


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Angie Trueblood is a Midlothian wife, mom of two kiddos, meal planning strategist and writer at and lover of all things RVA! She has been helping busy moms simplify dinnertime through meal planning and prepping for almost 3 years. When she's not helping other moms, she loves exploring the city's parks and playgrounds with her kids, checking out new restaurants with her hubs, and laughing about motherhood over cocktails with friends.