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When should my child have their first dental appointment? 

According to AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) guidelines, infants should initially visit the pediatric dentist around the time of their first birthday.  Unless your child is showing symptoms of dental pain or you have any other concern regarding their mouth or teeth, this first visit typically consists of nothing more than a "ride in the dental chair" while accompanying Mom or Dad to one of their routine dental visits. First visits can be stressful for parents, especially for parents who have dental phobias themselves, but our staff will try to make this visit as positive and upbeat as possible, in order to show your child that the dentist can be an enjoyable experience where they will feel comfortable returning for future visits. Your child will be shown a few of the instruments in a fun way and our hygienist may attempt to have them "open big" to show off their pearly whites so they can "count" their teeth.  Every child is different, and most will relax and have a great time during this "test" visit, when they see that Mom or Dad trusts us as well!  

Our team has a special knack for making children feel extra safe and secure during their visits at Smiles by Design.  We have a child-friendly waiting area with a play area and TV to play your child's favorite movie while they wait.  Dr. Boone has 6 children of his own and our team has chosen to be here because they love people of all ages and we work hard to earn your trust in taking the best care of your child.  A big question we are asked regarding children is, "Am I allowed to go back in the room with my child?".  The short answer is no.  Studies and experience have shown that children tend to do better when their attention can be focused in one direction, and if multiple people are trying to comfort the child or explain things to them at the same time, children become more anxious and confused.  Our goal is to help children establish self confidence by "doing it all on their own", and to show them that you trust our team with your most precious possession.  If your child asks for you (and most do), we will pause treatment and use distraction techniques to regain focus and continue treatment.  Dr. Boone is very skilled in working with wiggly children, and will complete treatment in as timely a manner as possible.  Some children cry, and that is OK. You can be certain that your child is not in physical pain.  They are anxious and crying is the way they handle that emotion.  We know this because most children that cry in the dental chair come out to greet their parents with a smile, eager to tell mom or dad how great they did!  Occasionally a child may require more assertive forms of behavior guidance in order to complete a procedure safely.  These may include voice control, distraction techniques or hand-holding.  We do not restrain patients at Smiles by Design.  If these techniques are unsuccessful, treatment will be halted at the safest point (i.e., if a cavity has already been removed from a tooth, Dr. Boone MUST complete the filling before sending the patient home) and a referral will be given for your child to be seen by a pediatric dental specialist for sedation.  This is very rare, but sometimes necessary. If Dr. Boone or a member of our team feels it is necessary, they will come to the waiting room and invite you to come to the treatment area.

How can I prepare for my child’s first dental visit? 

-Practice counting teeth and opening wide at home while brushing together.  This encourages children to be comfortable keeping their mouth open for extended periods.

-Do not use words such as pain, hurt, shot, needle or drill when describing what may happen at their appointment.  At Smiles by Design we "count teeth", "tickle the teeth", "wiggle the gums", etc.  

-Read books about going to the dentist with them at home a day or two prior to their appointment

   *Max Goes to the Dentist, by Adria F. Klein

   *Dora the Explorer-Show me Your Smile!, by Christine Ricci

-Let your child know that you expect them to enjoy their visit to the dentist, and truly mean it!  Positivity goes a LONG way with kids!

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s first dental visit, please contact our office.


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Smiles by Design, PLC | 1525 E Beltline Ave NE, #202, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49525

Phone: (616) 361-6161