How to Prepare for Your Child’s First Orthodontic Appointment

You may have been surprised when your child’s dentist recommended an appointment with an orthodontist. This is because the orthodontist can properly assess the potential for overcrowding as your child’s permanent teeth erupt. Maybe you assumed seeing an orthodontist was unnecessary until a child became a teen. And now you have no idea how to prepare your young child for such an appointment. 

You aren’t alone! Most parents are surprised to learn that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that kids start seeing their orthodontist by age seven. It might even be earlier if the dentist identifies a potential problem before then. By age 13, most permanent teeth have erupted and the need for braces or other orthodontic devices are placed in the child’s mouth.

Even with understanding the need for this visit, you know that your child will have some anxiety as the appointment approaches. You wonder what the best way is to prepare for it. 

Read on as we offer some practical tips to get ready for the visit to the orthodontist as well as an overview of what the appointment will entail. The better you prepare your child for the first orthodontic visit, the more you can help them tackle this new experience.


Preparing For Your Child’s Orthodontic Visit

No one knows your child better than you, so begin the conversation in a way they will understand and can handle. If your child is generally anxious in a new situation, begin slowly and with enough time to process the new information.

The main thing is to set aside your anxiety first, and then educate them about the reason for the visit, making sure to avoid any idea of “fault” or “something’s wrong.”

Explain to them what will happen during the first visit:

  • They will meet the orthodontist and staff involved in the appointment. 
  • They will sit in a chair just like at the dentist’s office, with a bright light. Parents can stay with them the whole time.
  • A technician will use a machine to take X-rays of the child’s mouth and other kinds of images (digital scans, etc.) of their teeth. 
  • The technician or another staff member will ask the parents lots of questions about the child’s medical and dental history.
  • The orthodontist will look in the child’s mouth to do a thorough evaluation of the alignment of the teeth, their bite, jaw movement, etc.
  • Depending on the need, an impression may be made of the child’s mouth to make custom orthodontic appliances. 

At the end of the appointment, both you and your child will have an overview of how subsequent visits will go and any proposed orthodontic treatment plan. 

You will see how the office works, meet the people who will be working with your child in the future, how to make appointments, and how to contact the office if you have questions. If you don’t get that information before you leave, make sure to ask!

Tips For Your Child’s First Orthodontic Appointment

Kids generally have lots of questions anyway, so questions about their upcoming visits to the orthodontist will be no different. As they grow and mature, their questions will change so be ready to listen and respond as best you can over time. If necessary, call the orthodontist’s office to get the answers yourself. This will go a long way in making your child comfortable and easing their stress. 

There are some additional tips to keep in mind to help your child feel as comfortable as possible about their visits to the orthodontist:

Deal With Your Anxiety First

Kids are experts at picking up emotions from those around them, especially their parents. Deal with any anxiety you may be personally having about taking your child to an orthodontist first. Ask questions of both your dentist and the orthodontist if necessary. Get information from other parents who have already been through the first orthodontic visit for kids. This will help you calm any anxiety you may have first.


Educate Them

Assume that your child has questions, even if they haven’t asked. Don’t tell them not to be anxious without providing information to calm them. You can help set aside their fears by letting them know what to expect ahead of time (more on this below). Tell them it is normal to be nervous about new experiences and assure them you will be there with them during the appointment.

Do this for every appointment. Tell them what is going to be done at each visit. Allow them time to ask questions as many times as it takes. Let me know if any visit will be longer than others they have experienced already. 

Find age-appropriate books about going to the orthodontist. Ask your local librarian or search on the Internet for material to use at every age. Read them with your child. This is a good way for them to generate questions.


Be Positive About The Process and The Outcome

You will probably have to explain the reason for and benefits of these visits more than once. Speak to them with a positive tone about the need for their treatment and describe how it will benefit them throughout their life.

Explain what could happen if this treatment isn’t carried out. Find photos of their favorite sports figures or celebrities to point out how nice their teeth look. Tell them that most of those people probably had to have orthodontic treatment too. 

Kids often misunderstand what is happening and may never ask. Remind them that the work being done on their teeth will have an end. Tell them the length of their treatment plan, using age-appropriate terms, and what will happen at the conclusion. What they need to hear is that regular visits to the orthodontist will happen less often in the future. In the meantime, keep reminding them that their teeth will then be straight and beautiful!


Let Them Be Involved in the Process

Don’t talk to the orthodontist and other staff as if your child isn’t present. Include them in the conversation and always ask if they have questions for the doctor. When possible, allow them to make decisions about their care, even if it’s simply the color of the rubber bands on their braces, for example. Ask them if they want you to accompany them into the treatment area. Plan something fun after each appointment and include them in where and what that will be.

Honesty Rules!

You want to shield your kids from unpleasantness, but being dishonest isn’t advised. Tell them what is going to happen before the fact and be honest if it will hurt or be uncomfortable. Try to make comparisons to situations they have already been through. If the orthodontist needs to numb an area with a needle, compare it to getting a shot at the doctor’s office. Emphasize that it’s over quickly. 

Assure them that any lingering pain later, after returning home, will be handled with their regular pain relievers. Speak about all of this as matter-of-factly as you can. If you gloss over pain you can lose trust with your child. Then, over time, you may have difficulty getting their cooperation when it’s time to head out to the orthodontist. 


Swiatek Orthodontics is Here to Help – From Their First Visit to Their Last

Seeing an orthodontist and receiving orthodontic care at a young age is becoming more important to a child’s oral health development. It’s up to the parent to lay the foundation for orthodontic care so their child is comfortable and as stress-free as possible at all orthodontic appointments. By using the proactive tips discussed in this article, both children and parents can be as prepared as possible for a positive experience. 

All of us here at Swiatek Orthodontics are dedicated to welcoming your family to our office and providing personalized care and expert guidance. Our goal is to always make your child feel as comfortable as possible when it comes to orthodontic care. We will gladly answer all your questions, as well as those of your child. Contact us now to schedule an appointment to get started!