When should I take my baby to the dentist for the first time? It’s sooner than you might think!
The most frequent question that parents ask is when their baby’s first dental check-up should occur. Most parents are surprised to learn the first visit is much earlier than they thought. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends the first dental visit be by age one or when the first tooth appears, whichever occurs first. Finding a practice that you and your child are comfortable with early in your child’s life will allow the dentist to catch potential issues before they become bigger problems. Not only is it important to make certain that everything is progressing as it should with growing teeth and gums, but you will have an opportunity to spend time with the dentist, ask questions, and receive information on implementing good oral habits and learning how to care for your baby’s teeth. Also, young children learning to walk often have accidents so it is important to have a comfortable place to go in the case of an emergency!
Your child’s first appointment
The goals of establishing a dental home are to introduce your child to the dentist and have the child become comfortable receiving dental care. The first visit should be short, fun and enjoyable. You can prepare children for the visit by staying positive and avoiding words that might cause fear, such as needle, shot, drill or pain. Introducing your child to their dental home is a lot like a “meet and greet” with the dentist. If you are excited about the first visit, your child will be too!
We believe that children who are comfortable at the dentist from an early age can become adults who have a more positive view of the dentistry as well which will lead to healthy smiles that last a lifetime! Here are some things you can do to help prepare your child:
Play dentist at home with them. Role play with your child and let them pretend to clean and “count your teeth” and vice versa. They can also pretend to clean and “count teeth” of a favorite stuffed animal. Use a chair and a mirror to pretend play going to visit to the dentist.
Read dental storybooks to them. There are many available online that you can read together about going to the dentist. We will give your child a special dental coloring book to take home on their first visit as well.
Talk to them about going to the dentist. Use the word dentist instead of doctor if possible. Keep it very simple and talk to them about how the dentist will “count” your teeth to make sure their teeth are strong and healthy. Tell your child that they will get a new toothbrush on their visit.
When talking to your child avoid using phrases like “everything is going to be fine” as it may make your child think that there “might” be something to worry about. Our staff has child friendly words that we will use to describe any treatment that may be needed.
Avoid using words like “hurt, shots, painful, drill, etc.” Only use positive and comforting words like “check your smile” and “count your teeth.” These and other words can be scary for kids and instill fear. Our staff has child friendly words that we will use to describe any treatment that may be needed.
Occasionally parents will have had a negative experience as a child, or a dental phobia that sometimes gets passed along to their child by describing a negative experience or talking about when they got a shot, etc. Please avoid any negative words about dental experiences if possible and talk to you child using only simple and positive words about “checking your smile” and “counting your teeth” to keep them strong and healthy.
Bring a favorite toy to their first visit. You can take pictures as well of their “first trip to the dentist”.
Make oral care a part of a daily routine
Getting into a routine early can help establish good oral hygiene habits and will increase the chances that these healthy practices will continue when the responsibility gets passed onto your child. These practices can start before teeth erupt by using a washcloth to gently wipe the gums, especially as part of a bedtime routine.
Use the correct toothbrush
Your baby’s teeth will start to arrive around 6 months (but this can vary greatly from child to child). Use a toothbrush specifically designed for babies. These brushes have smaller heads for smaller mouths with extra soft bristles that are gentle on young sensitive gums. We recommend that you brush your child’s teeth until he or she is able to brush properly themselves. Training toothpaste does not have fluoride. We recommend the use of fluoride toothpaste start only when your child can spit and not swallow the paste to alleviate the concern of ingesting excess fluoride. Use only a tiny amount for very young children who are still swallowing the toothpaste and a pea sized amount of toothpaste as they grow older and learn to spit it out. There is fluoride in most city water Talk to your dentist about sources of fluoride intake should you have any concerns.
Know what tooth decay looks like
Be aware of the signs of baby tooth decay (white spots on front teeth, stains in pits on back teeth) and stay up to date on dental exams.
Be consistent with dental check ups
Dental check ups should occur every 6 months starting when your child gets their first tooth, and no later than one year of age. Every 6 months your child will have a dental check up until dental cleanings start, generally around 3 years of age. This is the best way to help your child begin a lifetime of healthy dental care!
Dentistry for Children & Adults Too! Providing the very best dental care for the children and families of San Jose and Milpitas for more than 46 years! If you are looking for the best dentist for your kids or for yourself, call 408-263-6331 and ask about joining our our family today!