45 answers

Help Getting Through My Son's First Dentist Appointment

I'm taking my son tomorrow for his first dentist appointment and I'm so nervous. When I called to schedule his appointment the lady on the phone explained to me that they would take him back to the exam room and complete his initial exam and cleaning without allowing me back there. I called my mom to see if that was a normal practice and she wasn't sure. He's only 4 years old and has never been before and I think it's a little unusual that I'm not allowed back with him. I was wondering if anyone else's dentist goes along with this practice. That is, not allowing the mother back while the child is getting their exam. Thanks.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Well...we just got back and everything went fine. On the way to the office I explained to my son that this Dr. was going to count his teeth and make them shine and he got really excited. When I got to the office I explained my nervousness about him going alone so the hygenist came out to speak with me. She assured me that he would be fine, as all their patients are and if there were any problems they wouldn't hesitate to come get me. She took Mitchell's hand and led him back. When he came out 20 minutes later, he was smiling super big and showing off his nice shiny teeth. They were able to do his exam, cleaning and get a full set of x-rays, he did phenomenal. Even when the Dr. came back out to speak with me, Mitchell looked up at him and opened his mouth again. I'm very happy with the experience and even more happy with my son. He's growing up and I need to let him. Thank you everyone for your advice.

Featured Answers

Hi J. - My 3.5 year old just went to his 1st appt...I was told I could go back the first time only and then not again. When I was a kid - my mom didn't go back with me...my son didn't have a problem with any of it. Pediatric dentists are so good now - toys and cool things for kids to make the experience wonderful. GOOD LUCK! If you want to go back - just tell the dentist that's a deal-breaker for you and insist. If he/she won't allow - then find another dentist. :-)

That is unusual.When I was younger Mom went back with me until I told her I was okay without her. Now I do the same with my children. Every dentist I know usually allows at least one parent back with the child.

Hi, yes that is normal. My mom works for a detist office and has my whole life. She said something about they don't let the parents back (even if they are family, like me). They said the kids do better when the parents aren't there and are more willing to let the dentist do what they need then if the parents are there. The parents are the ones that are more worried about it then the kids. Comes with being a mom I guess. But yes that is normal practice and I wouldn't worry about it, he'll do just fine!

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I just took my 4 year old daughter to the dentist 2 days ago for her regular check-up. She has been going since she was 2 and they won't let me back with her either. This time she was clinging to my leg and wanted me to go back with her I told her I would be right here waiting for her after she got her prizes and the hygentist talked to her and took her hand and she was ok I always have her bring a stuffed animal to sit with her in the chair and watch her get her teeth cleaned. When she came back 15 minutes later she was all smiles and had her new prizes and stickers. I think mothers need to learn to let go at some point She has her first day of school next week and she doesn't want me to leave her there either. They will be fine and they learn we can't always be with them, but we will always be waiting for them.

1 mom found this helpful

If i were u, I wouldnt allow them to do it without u. I have always been welcome in the back w/ both of my daughters. My 11 yr old just started going in the back by herself and i still go in there after a little bit. Your child is only 4 & its his first time.....if they cant accept that u want to go back there w/ him, then take him elsewhere.

I've never taken my kids to the dentist, however, a friend of mine in Tennessee, told me that they did the same thing with her daughter who was 3 1/2 at the time. The reason is that kids usually make more of a fuss for their parents than for other people. They usually act better without their parents present. This particular dentist had fun things for the kids to do...a movie going, toys, etc...totally kid friendly and my friends daughter enjoyed her time at the dentist. :) That's what I know...all second hand info. :)

I am a hygienist and my husband is a dentist. We own the practice that we work at but have worked at a few other places before buying in. That is definitely the usual routine for dental visits. I have no problems with this usually. We introduce the mirror and the tooth tickler and also mr thirsty. I have movies I can play in my room and a stuffed animal "Doogan" that has teeth for us to practice brushing with. I try to make it a fun appointment so the kids want to come back. If for any reason they are hesitant I am usually able to calmly talk them through the appointment and if we only get a few teeth polished well than that's ok. The reasoning behind the parent not coming back is because the kids almost always behave much better when they come back alone. I am a parent and wouldn't understand this either but since I am on the other side of the fence too I see both sides. I personally will let any parent come back with their child it's just not recommended if you feel comfortable with that. The DDS will usually have the parent come back after the treatment is completed so he can talk with you (if the child needs any fillings) but certainly if you insist on coming back to the treatment room that's ok also. The child focuses on their parents instead of on the providers that's really all it comes down too. The kids usually like the independence of being a "big" girl or boy. Hope this helps.....

I have four kids (ages 5, 6, 7, 9) and they all started going to the dentist at about age 2 and I always went back with them. Once the kids got about age 5 I asked them if they wanted me to go back with them and sometimes they do and sometimes they don't - I let them decide.

This is normal practice for a pediatric dentist. I had to take my daughter to a pediatric dentist to have some teeth pulled and they wouldn't let me back there. It turned out fine, but it was pretty nerve wrecking. I take my children to my regular dentist for their cleanings and they let me back there to sit with them.

That is unusual.When I was younger Mom went back with me until I told her I was okay without her. Now I do the same with my children. Every dentist I know usually allows at least one parent back with the child.

Are you going to a pediatric dentist? I just went for my 1st appt with my 2 and 3 year old. I was allowed to go back but they did both kids at the same time so I stayed with my 2 year old. My 3 year old was fine by himself. I think sometimes they are better without us but I would also be nervous about not being allowed back. I prepared my kids by explaining what would happen and practicing opening their mouth for the dentist. I'd have them lay back and show them how the dentist would clean their teeth etc. I went to a pediatric dentist and they also showed them a movie showing them what would happen. They had a great time and they thought it was awesome. You could always see how he does without you or find another dentist that will allow you to go back. the 1st time can set the precendent for further visits so you really want it to go well. maybe you should consider cancelling and finding somewhere you are more comfortable with.
good luck!!!!

I'd hope they meant that if he's doing okay they will not need you. Several articles I've read on this say you should let your child go with the hygenist but if he gets scared they should come get you! You should make sure this is the case before commiting to the appointment. Otherwise I'd check elsewhere. Is this a pediatric dentist?
Good luck.

My five year old daughter sees a regular dentist and they have never requested that we aren't with her. I am not sure about this as on one hand I am sure they must have a reason for it however, I can imagine that he is worried about it and would like you to be with him. I would suggest asking their reason for not allowing you to go in and see how you feel about it.
Good luck!

I think this is normal. Just like daycare or starting preschool, the kids DO act differently when the parent is not around. When I lived in the city, I took my young kids to a pediatric dentist who did allow me in the back to watch. The hygentist allowed my two year old to sit on my lap while my son opened his mouth for her. It was just a "lets count on many teeth you have!" Now that he's four, we have since moved to the country and the new pediatric dentist that we go to allowed us all to go into her office for a consultation. Then, the hygentist took him back to the chair without me. He did fine. Good Luck! I always say, "Go with your gut instinct". If it doesn't feel right to you, ask questions!

Hi there...I am surprised they would tell you that you can't go back with your son. My dentist actually preferred me to go back when my kids went for the first time. My oldest daughter went to a different dentist when she first went and we have since moved, and that dentist practiced the same way; they both wanted me to come with. Our dentist also had suggested that before my daughter went for the first time, she should come with to an appointment of mine so she could see how I do it. My kids were not overly nervous or anything, either- the dentist did that with all the first time kids...My kids do wonderfully on their own now; me going back with them that first time was fine and was just a little reassurance to them.
Maybe you would want to call around to a few other dentists to ask what they do at their office. I hope it goes well : - )

J., unfortunately this is becoming more routine in dental practices and, frankly, I can't stand it. I dealt with it for my stepson, but he's 13. A 2 year old? No way. I'd put my foot down. Just my 2 cents. Good luck, honey. B. in Flint

I would find a different dentist personally. At our dentist their first appt is a happy visit where they don't even bill at all. They let the kids play with the different things and see how things work. IF they're ok with it they do a quick polish of the teeth and ask to count their teeth. It really made my boys comfortable with everyone. My youngest gets very nervouse and clings to me around strangers and they were so nice he was in that chair right away - no clinging no nervousness. Good luck!

I'm getting ready to make an appointment for my daughter so I am interested in what others have to say about this as well. I would think that you should be allowed to go back with him. I know it's been it was a long time ago, but I remember my mom going back with us when we went to the dentist.

I guess I would ask why you can't go back and if they don't have a good reason (and with a 4 year old I can't think of a real good reason) I would insist that I be able to go back. He is your child and you have a right to stay with him; the peditrician doesn't expect you to leave your child with the Dr. by himself.

I am really interested in what others have to say...


First thing to keep in mind is that the dentist works for YOU. He/she is your employee. You are paying him/her. You call the shots. If you want to go with your child, they cannot stop you. Now, you may have to put your foot down and perhaps even take your child elsewhere... But remember you're the boss!

My kids first dental appts were when they were around the same age. I was with them for the visit. All they did was count the teeth and basically get the kids used to the idea of being in the chair, to see all the tools and get comfortable with the hygienist & dentist. We've changed dentists a couple times and one of the offices (a HUGE team of personnel there) had the kids go back by themselves. It's a huge room all open with the chairs all lined up (my girls (5 & 8 at the time) went together so they could sit right next to each other. I believe the reason for this is because many kids "put on a show" for the parents, acting like they're being tortured, etc. They tend to act differently when they don't have us as an audience.

That being said, I am not always comfortable having my kids go to an unknown place. I walked my kids back to the dental cleaning area, then left the room. I could always peek in there because their backs are to the door. At our new dentist office, again, their backs are to the room opening, so I can be right behind them and observe without them knowing it, and they can't "perform" a big show for me.

Hope this helps.

I still go back with my 7 yr old. She's been going since she was 3 and still wants me there. (she's had some teeth issues) I went in with my 5 yr old on her first visit and now she goes in by herself. Our dentist Dr. Webb and hygenist Gigit, are great. There are TV's in the rooms, the kids can watch what they want. It makes it easier on them, the dentist and mom!

Good Luck,

Hi, yes that is normal. My mom works for a detist office and has my whole life. She said something about they don't let the parents back (even if they are family, like me). They said the kids do better when the parents aren't there and are more willing to let the dentist do what they need then if the parents are there. The parents are the ones that are more worried about it then the kids. Comes with being a mom I guess. But yes that is normal practice and I wouldn't worry about it, he'll do just fine!

Personally, I would look for another dentist. We just moved here from Kalamazoo, my son is almost 7 and when I scheduled him with the new dentist, they offered me the option of going back with him. I would never take my child anywhere where they insisted on performing any procedure on my child without my presence. It is more than unusual, it is highly suspicious. That's just my opinion, I don't know where you are, but we go to a dentist in Livonia and they are great there, totally family friendly. His name is Dr. Wood and his number is ###-###-####

My two older children had their first dental appointments at 3 & 4 years of age. I was allowed in the room for both of them. Going to the dentist for the first time can be scary for children. I would definetly question why you are not allowed to go back with him and then call another dentisit office and ask them what their policy is about parents staying with their children. If it differs, then maybe find a new dentist?

I can't believe this! I would not and am not comfortable allowing them to take my child, at this age, without me being able to go back with them. My daughter had her first checkup back in Nov. She had just turned three. I scheduled her appt. right after mine so she got to sit and watch the dentist clean my teeth and then she hopped up on my lap and he cleaned her teeth. They had told me in the beginning that they would only do what she would allow them to do and would stop if she became too scared or upset. However, she was so calm she let them do the entire procecure! If you are not comfortable with this, please find a new dentist. I grew up terrified of the dentist...I honestly don't know why, but to this day I am scared to death to go their. The last thing I wanted to do was instill this same fear into my children so I made sure that she could watch me and then that I would be able to be with her during this visit. We have scheduled all of our visits following this one the same way and our dentist was more than happy to do this and even encourages it! When she is ready to go on her own, she will go, but until then, I am with her no matter what and if someone told me I couldn't be, I'd just go and find someone else...period.

Hi J. - My 3.5 year old just went to his 1st appt...I was told I could go back the first time only and then not again. When I was a kid - my mom didn't go back with me...my son didn't have a problem with any of it. Pediatric dentists are so good now - toys and cool things for kids to make the experience wonderful. GOOD LUCK! If you want to go back - just tell the dentist that's a deal-breaker for you and insist. If he/she won't allow - then find another dentist. :-)

My son just has his first appointment last year. Our dentist encourages parents to go back into the room with the children. They then take all the tools, show them what they do and give them funny little nicknames so the children aren't scared of them. After the appointment they get a new toothbruch floss, and a token to get soething out of the machine up front. They take their picture and hang it on the wall with all the children who had their first appt. and when you come back in 6months, you get to take your picture home!! I would check around for a new dentist, or just flat out tell yours that you are not comfortable letting him go for the exam alone!! That just doens't sound right to me!! Good luck!!

I have been going to my dentist since I was a little girl and now I have 3 children of my own - granted it has always been a small practice, and now he is semi-retired, but I have always been allowed in the examination room - no questions asked. The dentist you are seeing may have found that it is easier to work on the patient, especially a child, if you are not in the room --- but if you are uncomfortable with that then I'd suggest finding another doctor if they insist you cannot be in the room. Always follow your gut.

I have heard that "regular" dentists do that (not allow parents back). My daughter goes to a Ped. dentist, and we go back with her.

Hi J.,

I have 2 kids, one 12 and the other 2, who both faithfully go to the dentist regularly. In fact, all of us go every six months, we never miss an appointment. I have switched dentists three times for my 12 year old because we moved. I have always gone with both kids into the examining room every time. I have never been told that I am not allowed to be with my kids. I think it is unusual that you are not allowed based on my experiences. I would call your dental office back and ask if it is ok for you to be there in the exam room since it is your son's first time. They should be sympathetic and understanding since it's obvious that for many people, going to the dentist is never a pleasant experience nor one that they look forward to. Also, for my kids, I've always made sure that the dentist I take them to is kid friendly--(pediatric dentists focus on children) and some dentists are more caring and compassionate toward the anxieties that children may have. I definitely would speak up before I go to the appointment.

Good luck.


Hi J.,
I just posted this below, but didn't see your experience already went so wonderfully. Glad to hear it! Just ignore my message. Ha!
This is my first post, I hope I am doing it right!
We just took our 3-year-old son to the dentist for the first time. Asher sat on my lap while they cleaned his teeth, which worked out great. There is absolutely no way he would have sat there by himself, and I would not have been comfortable letting him go alone. I don't think this is normal for a pediatric dentist at all. I would either pick a different dentist or insist you are going back with him. I don't see any reason not to let you back there. It's just a cleaning!
Good luck!
By the way, my 1-year-old daughter is Leila. How funny!

I would say that sounds wierd but i'm not sure. my son is only 19months so i haven't had to take him yet. all the books say when they get their first teeth to take them but my dentist doesn't take them till they reach school age. my neighbor's son just turned 5 and he might have been before but he just went for fillings and hey let her be in there with him. i would maybe just to see call a few other dentist's and see what they allow.

Our dentist lets the kids and parents do what makes them comfortable, yours should too. As far as being nervous, heres what I did; I had the dentist check me first, and made a fun production of going to get it done (new tooth brush, cool chair, fun noises etc..). Always remember what you project they pick up. If you are acting nervous they Know. It will be fun is a good thing to say aloud. Have fun, good luck, take pictures, he will probaly like to hear the story of his first dentist visit some day!! ;)K

That doesn't sound right; seak a new dentist!

I took my son 6-months ago for his first appointment. They were great! I went back with him and they had a fun name for their tools, which he could relate. Slerppy (the sucker) was my son's favorite and they allowed him to operate it. He also go to take a drink from the sprayer before we left. (I don't recall its specail name.) It was hard for him to sit still, as he was currious about everything. But they were patient and tryed to make him as comfortable as possible.

I would highly recommend a new dentist, especially if you are questioning their parctices.


Second, how well do you know your dentist?

Hi J..

Personally I would not take my daughter to a dentist if they would not allow me in the room with her based on past experience. When I was 18, I took my 4 year old brother to his dentist appt and the dentist was flat out mean to him, sternly telling him to stop crying/moving/etc. which scared my brother even more. For my own daughter's first dentist appt, we chose a pediatric dentist in Canton. Dr. Khan was extremely gentle with my daughter so much that my daughter loves going to the dentist now! If you want more info, just let me know. Good luck making your decision.


That is absolutely NOT NORMAL. I would find a different dentist. Any dentist/doctor should allow you in the room while they are examining your child (unless they need a sterile field for something). What do they have to hide? I took my son to the Dentist at 3 and they had me sit next to him, gave him sunglasses, and carefully explained everything to him and he was great! I'm not sure where you live- but our dentist is in Clinton Twp and is great with kids. My pediatrician recommended him and there are tons of kids in the office.

I am an office mgr at a detnal office in A2 and we always give the parents the option of coming in to the room with their child. But for a first visit, what parent wouldn't want to be there in the room? At that age they are too young to know what is going on and having you there will make him more comfortable. I would be wary of an office that refuses to let you go back and even stay in the room if you choose. When they are a few years older it is different, but even then we give the parents the option. Hope this helps and hope the first experience goes well, it will make a lasting impression on your son.

Our dentist is like that as well. Honestly, our 3 1/2 yo daughter does better if we're not there. Our reactions upset her, and the dentist knows how to calm a child for the most part. My daughter LOVES her dentist, and she's had and extraction, a root canal and caps put in! She knows she's going to get a balloon or a toy, and everyone is really nice to her. I was very tearful leaving her the first time, and the nurse was herding me out with her body, but Libby did great and was soon back in my arms. It'll probably be a lot harder on you than him!

J., if I were in your shoes I would insist on going back just this first time if this dentist was new to me. If it's a dentist I was familiar with, I would base the decision on whether my son did well in "without Mommy time", such as Sunday school, play dates, etc. If he didn't do well, I would still insist on going in to offer reassurance in this new experience.

My son was well under 2 when he had his first dental appointment. I went back with him, stood in the corner and held his hand only when he got nervous so that he could get the feeling of being in the chair alone without the anxiety of me not being there (plus at that age, the dentist was asking *me* the questions). I admit my son did focus on me at first for guidance as to how to act, but I simply instructed him to focus on the PedDentist. I also was able to get a feel for the PD's manner and found I didn't care for being told to "hold him down and pry his mouth open to brush his teeth - he'll cry a little, but he'll get used to it". I started scheduling my son with my own dentist after that, who has a much healthier approach to children and dentistry.

Last year (when my son turned 4), we started having cleaning appointments at the same time, so he gets to be alone. He does great! He really enjoys getting his teeth cleaned and he asks all types of questions about the equipment and what they're doing. He talks about the dentist for weeks afterwards.

I understand all of you dental professionals on this list(working parents, as am I) who think the parent in the room is a distraction, but we as parents want to make the best possible health choices for our children, which means interviewing the health care professional. We are not allowed to do that unless we make an appointment for our child. The first visit is like a job interview between wee patient, parent and professional. If the pieces don't fit, we need to find what works for our child, so I advocate having the parent in for the entire first visit. After that, the parent and patient know what to expect, so if the child is ready to go it alone, let them be big boys and girls (yeah!)

Find a new dentist! I was encouraged to stay with my son and actually held him on my lap for his first exam. The dentist should do EVERYTHING to make the child's trips to the dentist one that is NOT scary! My son now loves to go see the dentist and knows his hygentist by name and can't wait to see her again!


While I think this is normal practice, it can be scary for mom and child. My dentist had my kids come in with me, first, to watch what a cleaing would be like and then took each of the kids back by themselves. During that visit they got to sit in the chair, spray the water, feel the tooth brush that they use etc. Then when it was time for their appts, they knew what to expect and were comfortable going back to the exam room alone. You might want to ask the dentist what he can do to help ease you and your son into this new experience.

Find a more child friendly dentist. My son has been to every one of my appointments (5 of them so far) and he likes to watch. He is 2 1/2 and has already been in the chair 3 times for "inspection" by the hygenist and the dentist himself. My hygenist has "buzzed" his teeth a couple of times with extra cleaner left from my appointment and this last time she actually scraped a little tartar off his teeth from the back and polished them and he sat in the chair fine-he was actually thrilled because he knew what to expect. American Pediatrics Association is recommending that children go into the dentists earlier these days-I would find a new dentist and get your littlest one in there as well.
Good luck!

I have been a dental asst. for a general dentist for the past 8 years and I have never had to tell a parent that they were not allowed to go back with their child. I have a daughter that will turn 4 in October that just had her first visit a few weeks ago. As I do work for the dentist, I did not go and check on her while having her exam and cleaning, only because I know from other children that they sometimes "act differently" when Mom is in the room with them. I also know that if you take your child to a pediactric dentist, you are not allowed in the exam room. You need to find a dentist that you feel comfortable with and trust, and then you should have no problem letting your son go to the dentist. Good Luck.

My son is only 20 months, so I wouldn’t know if it’s normal, but I wouldn’t like it one bit. Something like that can be scary for little kids, and a parent should be there to help calm them. I would insist that you go back there, or find a different dentist that will. I know my dentist in Canton does (Dr. Crest on Ann Arbor Rd.), just call around if you have to.
Just my two cents though, good luck.

Wow J. I have not heard of that, of course I've only ever been to 3 dentists. The one I went to when I was little, and they always allowed my mom back with me, then when I was older (4th grade +) and they let her back when and if I wanted her (since I was older) and our current dentist, who has ALWAYS allowed me back with my kids. I started taking them there when my oldest son was 4, he is now 9. I am actually getting ready to take my little guy there, he turned 3 in April. They are awesome. I think it would be VERY scary for a little one to go through something like that for the first time without holding mommy's hand, or at least being able to hear mommy's voice reassuring him. Also, before my kids' first visits, they went along just to watch and see what would be happening and to meet the dr.

Hope this helps and good luck!!

My dentist lets my daughter play in the room as my teeth are cleaned then lets her sit on my lap in the chair for her exam. It minimizes her anxiety and has worked out well for her last two appointments. She was 2 and a half and 3. My dentist says kids are less likely to grow up fearing the dentist this way. I wouldn't take my kids somewhere where they won't let me be with them. Atleast not until they are older.

I took my daughter with me to my dentist appointments. She got used to the office. They even let her sit at the front desk and color. She thinks she works there. When it came time for her first cleaning, she was very familiar with the people and the sights and sounds. They let me come back with her. She still ended up crying, but she does that when I am around for anything, really. I eventually decided that they were probably going to have more luck without me right there because that is just how my daughter is, but you can bet I was right around the corner. I do not trust any doctor or dentist that tells you to wait outside while they perform a procedure on your child. You need to be their advocate to say enough is enough, and you can't do that if you are not there.

Hi, I work for a pediatric dentist, I'm an assistant. We do allow a parent to go back for exams and cleanings, but not for work if it needs to be done. Its nice to have parents to go back for the exams that way, the hygenist can go over some of the things with you while they work on your childs teeth, like diet and brushing tips. However, kids do behave differently without a parent in the room, so sometimes they are asked to leave, and its amazing how they settle down, and we can get pictures and get done. Our complaint with parents in the room, is we are there for your child, and when we talk to your child, alot of parents answer for their children, we can't get to know them that way. We like to start seeing children at the age of one, then we can break habits before they get out of control, like bottles and juice around the clock. When we do work on kids, fillings, crowns and extractions, we have the children back by themselves, the reason for this, the parents don't know what we're doing, we explain everything to your child, if a parent is nervous, the child will pick that up, which makes it a whole lot worse on them, and us as well. We never say the word 'shot' and kids will come in crying because they don't want a shot, they never see it, very few feel it, we have even gotten through a whole appointment and the kid is still saying they don't want a shot. We have had parents pass out on us in the past as well, which takes us away from your child, another of the main reasons, no parents are allowed back, even an RN passed out once. If you dont' trust the dentist, don't go there, there are plenty of choices out there, and trust is big, so again, if you don't trust them, its not the place for you. If you have any other questions, please let me know:)Sue

No doctor or nurse is allowed to take a child under the age of 18 in the back without a parent or guardin. I would tell them that you are going back there with him. If they say no, don't go to that dentist. My cousin-in-law always goes back with her children. My "adoptive mother" (best friends mom) works for a dentist office, and they always allow the parents to go back.

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