Life with a new baby is full of the most wonderful things—mornings spent snuggling, coos and laughs, and a whole host of milestones.
It seems like babies change at lightning speed, often leaving parents wondering how to best support their child through these stages of development. First steps, first words—babies are full of very exciting firsts. We are here to help busy parents celebrate baby visiting the dentist for the first time.
When should I take my baby to their first dental visit?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Dental Association (ADA), and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) all recommend that parents take their child to the dentist by their first birthday. Starting dental care early will help with preventative care, establish a relationship with a trusted dental practice, and build good dental hygiene habits.
Many parents wonder how they can find a dentist that will be a good fit for their child and family. A pediatric dentist provides exceptional care, with special attention given to the needs of children from infancy through their teenage years. Babies, and baby teeth, have different needs than adults. A pediatric dentist is trained in how to best care for your child as they get their baby teeth and later their adult teeth.
What better occasion to establish good dental hygiene habits than when little one is enjoying their delicious first birthday smash cake?
When should I register my child with a dentist for baby?
Finding the right “dental home” for your baby is very important for more than just making sure they get their routine cleanings and checkups. The AAPD stresses the importance of a “dental home” in providing continuous and comprehensive dental health care. It can take months to build a feeling of comfort for your baby in a new place. This is where a pediatric dentist can help and why it is so important to find the right “dental home” early.
As baby starts to toddle, walk, and run, they are inevitably going to get their share of bumps and bruises. Having a trusted “dental home” in these situations is key. Knowing where to ask questions and take your child when they do get scraped up can help many parents enjoy the toddler years with less worry.
What can I expect during my baby’s dental visit?
The purpose of baby’s first visit to the dentist is to establish good habits as much as it is about the exam itself. The dentist will start examining your child by looking at baby’s teeth and gums for possible disease, irregularities, and inflammation. Age-appropriate tooth and gum cleaning, along with a fluoride varnish application and dental x-rays, can also be done.
The first dental visit is also full of conversation. The dentist will ask about baby’s health information, diet, and habits, such as brushing teeth, feedings, and pacifier or thumb/finger sucking. Caring for your baby’s oral health goes beyond just cleaning their teeth and gums; building healthy dental habits is our number one goal. Establishing comfort and confidence between baby, parents, and the dental team is an important part of that first visit.
Incorporating healthy snacks is important for your child’s overall health as well as their teeth and gums. Sticky foods and carbohydrates should only make up a small portion of their snacks. Your baby’s dentist will go over good snack choices during a visit. We find that involving parents leads to more comprehensive care, lifelong healthy habits, and happier and healthier kids.
A dentist for babies can make it fun for everyone!
Because baby’s visits to the dentist include education for parents, you are invited to stay with your child throughout the entire treatment, with the exception of sedation appointments. We do ask that you let us give your child directions when needed, to minimize confusion during the exam. We will show you how to care for your baby’s teeth by brushing and flossing, including which toothbrush and how much toothpaste to use. The team will make sure to keep the visit positive and fun, refraining from using words like “needle” or “pull” that could make your child nervous.
Reading a book can help prepare your child for their upcoming visit. This is especially useful for toddlers and older children. These recommended books can get your child excited about a visit to the dentist.
- Show Me Your Smile! A Visit to the Dentist (Dora the Explorer) by Christine Ricci, Robert Roper
- Just Going to the Dentist, a Golden Look-Book
- Barney Goes to the Dentist by Linda Cress Dowdy
- Going to the Dentist by Anne Civardi, Michelle Bates, and Stephen Cartwright
- The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist by Stan Berenstain, Jan Berenstain
- What to Expect When You Go to the Dentist by Heidi Murkoff
Follow-on care is just as important to baby’s overall dental health. A trained pediatric dentist can provide the best for your child in preventative care, orthodontics, and restorative care.
When should I start brushing my baby’s teeth?
Even before baby has any visible teeth, parents should be cleaning their gums with a soft washcloth after feedings. This helps keep their mouths clean and prevent build-up of the sugars that can lead to dental problems.
Many parents know to limit the amount of sugary beverages, such as sodas or juice, that their child consumes. But did you know that formula and milk (including breastmilk) can cause tooth decay and other dental problems in the same way? This specific condition is known as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. Putting baby to bed with a bottle can make this condition even more pronounced. If baby needs a bottle to fall asleep, make sure that it is filled with water rather than formula or milk.
Baby needs adequate amounts of these nourishing liquids to grow and develop, so don’t limit their consumption. Just make sure to wipe their mouth clean after each feeding, including at night, to keep their gums and teeth healthy, too. A simple swipe of a clean washcloth will do the trick.
Once you see that first baby tooth eruption, it’s time to get out the baby-sized toothbrush and go to town. Parents should brush baby’s teeth (and the surrounding gums) twice a day after the first baby tooth has appeared. When they are old enough, you can time your child brushing their teeth to make sure that they get all areas. You can also sing a song while brushing to help your young child know how long they need to brush.
A teething baby
Getting those baby teeth in is no walk in the park. Just ask any parent of a child under the age of 2 and they will cringe at just the word teething. Fortunately, there are a few things to help alleviate the discomfort of teething that also build healthy dental habits.
Teething gels and tablets are not recommended. Instead, let baby gnaw on a cool teething ring, washcloth, or even a clean finger. If needed, you can give your child baby acetaminophen (Tylenol), following the dosage guide.
Brushing baby’s teeth is an important part of caring for their dental health. It also has the added benefit of providing relief to a teething baby. You will find that many babies enjoy having their gums massaged with a toothbrush. A cold, wet washcloth can also help.
When should I start using toothpaste with my baby?
Toothpaste amounts depend on the age of your child. Babies and toddlers under 3 years of age can use a ‘rice-grain’ amount of toothpaste. Children 3 years old and up can use a ‘pea-sized’ squirt on their toothbrush. Just like the dentist, you can make brushing baby’s teeth fun with songs, dances, and colorful toothbrushes. After all, good dental hygiene and healthy mouths are fun!
We are here to help you care for your baby’s teeth from the very beginning. Finding the right “dental home” can help parents know that they are doing the very best for their kids and their overall health. Baby’s first dental visit is an important milestone that we know will put a big smile on their face. We help busy parents put healthy smiles on their kids by making a visit to the dentist fun!