AT WHAT AGE SHOULD YOU TAKE YOUR CHILD TO THE DENTIST FOR THE FIRST TIME ?

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It has been said that although your baby may not be ready for a dental visit at one year old, your baby’s teeth are ready.  So as a dentist and following recommended guidelines and text books the answer is pretty much any time between 6 and 12 months is a good time for your child to visit the dentist for the first time.

As a busy single mom, I understand things get busy and this first dental appointment may not have happened by age one.  Please don’t stress, call your family dentist and book your child’s or children’s first dental appointments.  If you don’t have a family dentist, do some research, ask some friends, reach out to your local mom’s groups.  Find a dentist comfortable treating children and your whole family.

WHAT WE DO AT OUR OFFICE AT THE FIRST DENTAL VISIT (BABY)

My goal at your child’s first dental appointment is to make it fun.  I want them to explore the clinic, play with the toys, investigate the fish tank, play on the ipad or watch cartoons on Netflix.  I want them to have a positive experience where they feel safe and comfortable.  It is in everyone’s best interest to have positive first appointments to help set us up for future success at the dentist.

With a parent or guardian we usually start with a dental chair ride, followed by an exam depending on how comfortable and cooperative your child is.  One of the best methods of examining children is to have the parent hold their child in his or her lap and sit down facing the dentist for “knee to knee dentistry”.  This is a good method to put children at ease while allowing the dentist to check for early cavities and oral developmental problems.

Infants can get cavities just like older children and adults.

  1. Going to bed with fluids other than water in their bottle can cause a lot of damage to your baby’s teeth. If your baby sleeps with a bottle, fill it with water.
  2. Following all feedings you should clean your baby’s mouth and teeth
  3. Letting your baby sleep at the breast or with a bottle of juice, formula or milk can harm your baby’s teeth. The sugar will remain on the child’s teeth throughout the night and can damage the enamel and cause tooth decay.
  4. If your baby normally falls asleep while feeding, brush his or her teeth before feeding.

What I try and accomplish at your baby’s first appointment is a chair ride, a quick look in the mouth, but most importantly a great conversation with the parents about home care and diet.  Juice is my biggest concern and the main reason I am filling often 8 cavities on children 4-5 years old.

Brushing the teeth after meals.  At least trying to get 2-3 brushes in a day.  A mom asked me the other day about some advice she was given at another dental office…you pin your child’s arms down and brush their teeth.  She didn’t like that approach or how the conversation was going, so she came to me.  I giggled a bit and said that I wouldn’t have worded it that way, and told her what I did as a mom.  I wrapped my children in a towel after bath time and lay them on the floor and I straddled over top of them to brush their teeth.  They were super cozy.  Initially they cried and sometimes I had to open their mouths with my fingers, then I would brush and tell them how awesome it is when they cry loudly because mommy can now see all their teeth to clean.  They soon caught on and stopped crying and they are both awesome about letting me brush and floss their teeth.

Diet and juice is my biggest concern, EAT YOUR FRUIT, DON’T DRINK IT.  Juice is a big NO NO in my house and family.  I’m not over the top strict about juice, its totally fair game at birthday parties or special occasions at a restaurant (even though for my kids that usually involves chocolate milk).  When I used to ask my son when he was allowed juice he would report “on plane rides”, and that was true.  Now my son strongly dislikes juice and will cry if at a party that’s all they have, thankfully water is always easy to find.  My daughter mostly drinks milk, or almond milk, avoiding the vanilla flavored ones she’d prefer.  My children eat loads of fruit, drink plenty of water, eat lots of dairy in the form of milk, cheese and yogurt and I’m working on more vegetables.

As a mom, I do my best.  For me having no juice in the house made it easy.  My children never drank it at home, never learned to ask for it and have never fallen in love with sugar.  When they are thirsty they ask for water.  And we still eat plenty of treats.

WHAT WE DO AT OUR OFFICE AT THE FIRST DENTAL VISIT (CHILD)

If your child is older and visiting the dentist for the first time, I still try and make the first appointment fun.  Build confidence at the dental office.

  1. chair ride
  2. show and tell of equipment
  3. tooth counting
  4. maybe pictures of their teeth (we try and print a copy of the children’s xrays for them to take home)
  5. tooth polish “tickle”, floss
  6. FL varnish if indicated and parent consents

I let the children drive their first appointment.  We try as much as they seem to be comfortable with.  Every child is different and we try and work at their individual pace to ensure future comfort and success.