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What You Need to Know About Making Your Child’s First Visit to the Dentist a Success!

When should my kids first visit the dentist and what can I do to help them prepare? I’m partnering with River Park Dental to answer some of your questions about your child’s first trip to the dentist!

This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure here.

I waited, what I thought was, a really long time to take my kids to the dentist. I was dreading it, to be honest. My oldest son has some struggles with anxiety so I put off taking him, afraid that it was going to be a horrible experience. When I finally did take them, my oldest was in Kindergarten and my youngest son was 3.

kid getting teeth cleaned at first visit to the dentist

Thanks to the amazing staff at River Park Dental, our first visit to the dentist was 1000% better than I expected. It was so good, in fact, that my kids would ask when they could go back and when they did have another visit scheduled, my son woke up saying, “I can’t wait to go to the dentist!” Now if that isn’t a testament to the experience River Park Dental provides, I don’t know what is!

pictures of patients at River Park Dental

I want to use this post to answer some common questions about taking your kids to the dentist for the first time. Hopefully with a little preparation you can take your kids to the dentist with confidence! Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, or a dentist, and this advice was written in partnership with River Park Dental, but please consult your own doctor or dentist for advice pertaining to your own child!

When should kids first visit the dentist?

kids watching videos at first dentist visit

Missy, our dental hygienist at River Park Dental, recommends that age 3 is a great age to take your child to the dentist for the first time. Of course if you have concerns, by all means take your child earlier, but age 3 is when kids will start to be a little more open to the experience!

What if my kid freaks out and doesn’t cooperate?

Or am I the only one asking that question? ha! The ladies at River Park Dental have been around the block a few times when it comes to this teeth cleaning thing. In other words, this will not be the first time they’ve experienced a toddler tantrum when trying to stick their fingers in a child’s mouth!

Missy said, “Don’t be disappointed if the first visit doesn’t go as you hope.” “Don’t be frustrated,” she continued, “We don’t think anything about it. We’re not looking at you any different. We just go with it.” Basically, no judgement here. They’ve seen it all before!

What should I expect at my kid’s first dentist appointment?

At River Park Dental, they try to make the first (and every) visit as fun as possible and if the child is not cooperating, they aren’t going to push anything. The main goal is to try to at least get a good visual of what’s going on inside your child’s mouth!

kids picking from the treasure chest at first dentist visit

At River Park Dental, kids can choose a video to watch on the screen overhead. There are a lot of fun books and 2 iPads in the waiting room. At the end of the visit, kids get to pick a prize from the treasure chest! The whole experience is kind of a treat for my kids!

kid at iPad visiting the dentist for the first time

When should a child brush their own teeth?

I talked with Missy about this because, though my pediatrician recommends that I let my 4 year old brush his own teeth, I am still doing it. The dental hygienist sides with me! Missy told me, “Brush your children’s teeth as long as you can.” Baby enamel is thin and prone to cavities. She recommends children age 5 and up can begin brushing their own teeth but that parents should still follow up.

What do I have as proof of this? My 4 year old’s teeth had way less plaque on them than my 7 year old’s. So I’m continuing to brush. 

How do I prepare my child for their first dentist visit?

When you take your child to the dentist for the first time, the hygienist is going to wear gloves and a mask and it can be a little bit scary for kids. One way to prepare them is to read some books about going to the dentist that show a dentist with a mask and using some of the equipment they will see. That way your kids will know what to expect when they get there.

This is a sampling of some of the books that River Park Dental has in their office.

These books give a good overview of what it’s like for kids to go to the dentist for the first time:

going to the dentist book by mercer mayer

Just Going to the Dentist by Mercer Mayer

berenstain bears go to the dentist book for toddlers

The Berenstain Bears Visit The Dentist by Stan & Jan Berenstain

curious george goes to the dentist book for toddlers

Curious George Visits the Dentist by H.A. Rey

There is, of course, a Daniel Tiger episode about his first trip to the dentist! Check out the book adaptation here: Daniel Goes to the Dentist adapted by Alexandra Cassel

These books are geared toward elementary school kids and deal with loose teeth:

Loose tooth book for first readers

Freckleface Strawberry Loose Tooth by Julianne Moore (Step 2)

My wobbly tooth must not ever never fall out book

My Wobbly Tooth Must Not Ever Never Fall Out by Lauren Child

Loose Tooth Book

Loose Tooth by Lola M. Schaefer (I can read book)

These books talk about taking care of your teeth and why kids need to do so:

cutie sue fights the germs book

Cutie Sue Fights the Germs by Kate Melton

no place for sugar bugs book for dental visits

No Place for Sugar Bugs by Rose O. Waderya DMD


Sugarbug Doug by Dr. Ben Magleby (There’s also a Sugarbug Doug coloring book!)

The Tooth Book A guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums by Edward Miller

Does my baby need to go to the dentist?

While it was recommended that age 3 is a great age to take your child to the dentist, there are some cases where River Park Dental can help your infant. River Park Dental performs frenulectomies and frenectomies for infants and children
“Tongued-tied” babies can struggle with bottle or breast feeding. Being tongue tied can also result in a speech impediment when kids get older. River Park Dental can perform tongue and lip tie revisions with a Solea laser right in the office.

What other questions do you have about taking your kids to the dentist?


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kids at the dentist