Find out when to start going to the dentist, how to find the right dentist and how to prepare your child for their visit to the dentist.

When to make the first visit

All children should have their first visit to the dentist 6 months after their first tooth comes in or by 1 year of age (whichever comes first). If your family dentist is not comfortable seeing your child before age 3, you may want to see a pediatric dentist. They provide primary and specialty oral health care for children with special needs.


Finding the right dentist

Use the Dental Office Considerations Checklist when you call a dentist.  Good places to start your search include:

  • Directory of dentists who provide care to patients with developmental or acquired special needs in Washington State.
  • Check with the AAPD to find a pediatric dentist in your area.


Getting ready for your child’s appointment

Think about your child’s needs and how you can communicate this information to dental staff.  Use the Getting to Know Me Dental Questionnaire or modify our Getting to Know Me form.

  • When calling to schedule the visit, ask for the first or last appointment of the day.
  • Ask the dental office to send or email paperwork for you to fill out at home.
  • Talk with your child’s primary health care provider before you plan your dental visit. The dentist may need to consult with them before starting any dental care (especially for children with heart or lung conditions).
  • Check if your child can be treated in a private or semi private room.
  • Ask if the staff will call your cell phone while you wait outside or in your car if your child may feel uncomfortable in a waiting room.
  • Talk to your child’s dentist beforehand if you have questions about behavioral management during treatment or sedation.


Preparing your child

You know your child best.  Some children respond well to talking about what will happen before going to the dentist and some do not.  Some ideas that may help:

  • Play “going to the dentist” and take turns with your child being the patient and dentist.
  • Talk about what will happen at the visit.
  • Practice the “knee to knee position” at home. This is a common way that dentists care for small children or children in wheelchairs. In this position, you and the dentist sit facing each other with knees touching. You will hold your child facing toward you and then lay your child back down across your legs with their head cradled in the dentist’s lap.
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