As a new parent, you have a lot on their plate. Many things you knew to expect but lots of other stuff just tends to crop up as life goes on. In that sense, it’s not just your baby that’s experiencing things for the first time – but you and the whole family. One of those things that you likely haven’t been through before is taking your child to the dentist, especially for the first time. You might have a lot of questions about dental care for children – like when to make that first appointment, which dentist to choose and what to expect from dental care at an early age – so keep reading and we’ll do our best to shed some light on the topic for you. We’ll answer some of the most asked questions and give some tips or advice on how to care for your child’s oral hygiene so that you both build a great foundation for the future.
When should you book your child’s first appointment with a dentist?
The general rule of thumb is that if you see a tooth emerging, then it’s time. Some parents even book appointments before the first tooth happens but you’ll definitely want to let a dentist take a look as soon as their pearly whites start to show. This typically happens around the 6 month of age mark and it’s important to see a child-friendly dentist right away.
(Note – if you see anything abnormal with your child’s mouth such as white spots, bleeding, lesions, infections etc. you need to make an appointment straight away, regardless of age or tooth count.)
One in five children under the age of five are already affected by tooth decay. Whether it’s from neglect of oral care or something else, it’s vital that you catch the condition early by getting a dentist to diagnose and treat right away. Even though baby teeth come first and are essentially expendable, it’s still important to lay the groundwork for a healthy smile that lasts a lifetime. Last thing you want it for periodontal disease to start affecting your child’s oral and overall health.
Your paediatric dentist will check for tooth decay, injuries or any other abnormality that may affect your child’s smile. They will also be able to monitor and start tracking changes in your baby’s mouth as they get older.
How do you choose the right children’s dentist?
You’ll likely already have a dentist that you like for yourself and the other grown-up members of your family, but that doesn’t necessarily make them the right fit for newborns or very young children. That’s why there are dentists, called paediatric dentists (or children’s dentist), who specialize in kids oral care and growing mouths.
A paediatric dental clinic should be great with kids and know how to make a potentially frightening situation into a fun experience for your baby or toddler. They’ll also have the required small-sized dental equipment to get the job done properly. The décor and vibe in the office should also appeal to kids, so furnishings that are bright and engaging are a plus. Toys, games, TV, magazines for kids – stuff like that – are typically available in the waiting area to keep young ones entertained and having fun.
If visiting the dentist is a fun experience instead of a scary one, it will help build trust and outlook that your child needs to properly take care of their oral health throughout their life. Choose the right dentist and your kids will be happy to visit every six months which will make your life a lot easier too.
For parents who have just moved into a new neighbourhood and are looking for a child-friendly dentist here’s a few tips on how to find the right clinic. The first thing we recommend is speaking with your real estate agent about what’s available nearby. It’s their job to be a community expert regarding things like schools, parks, transit, grocery stores, restaurants and other amenities including dental offices. Agents often live in the neighbourhood as well and might be able to steer you in the right direction. You can also ask your neighbours if they have someone they can recommend because referrals are always the best. If that doesn’t yield any leads, then take a drive or a walk around town to see what you can find. Most dentists will welcome your walk-in visit and you’ll be checking two things off your “finding a new dentist” list in one go because you’ll see the clinic firsthand and maybe even snag a face-to-face with the dentist and staff. Finding a new dentist doesn’t have to be a stressful thing if you find the right help and use your resources wisely.
What can I do to prepare for my child’s first visit?
You should be rinsing and gently cleaning your baby’s gums well before the first tooth makes an appearance by using a soft cloth and water to gently rub the gums after breast feeding and before lengthier downtime. There are also special toothbrushes with extra soft bristles specifically designed for babies you can purchase. Make sure you don’t start using a fluorinated or harsh flavoured toothpaste until your child is at least 2 years old. Fluoride isn’t good for forming teeth and can lead to fluorosis that can cause spots, discolouration’s and even pitting in children’s teeth. Here’s a great article about how to keep your baby cavity free.
Having a cleaning routine from a very early age will get your child used to the idea of oral care and the feeling of having someone’s fingers (or toothbrush) inside their mouth. This will really help make your child feel more comfortable when it comes time to visit the dentist.
You can also help “acclimate” your child to the idea of a dentist by showing them fun videos about visiting the dentist, or kids books about oral care. There’s lots of great material available for just this purpose.
For yourself, make sure you choose a clinic that’s located conveniently and book an appointment time that’s easy for you to meet. If you’re stressed, there’s a good chance your baby will be too and that’s not a good way to start out. Lastly, create a list of questions you might have about oral care for babies so that you’ll understand exactly what to do. Remember, going to the dentist as a baby is a good thing and will pay dividends down the road.
What should you expect during your baby’s first appointment with a dentist?
If you’re confused about how the first dental appointment will go, we’re here to help clear that up. First, don’t worry, you’ll be in the room with your child the whole time, which will be a comforting for both of you. If your child can sit in the dental chair by themselves, great, but if not, they can sit on your lap. Your dentist will perform a routine oral examination looking for things like tooth decay and checking out the gums, jaw, bite characteristics and looking for things like frenum issues or other things that could possibly affect the teeth or speech patterns in the future. Just like a normal adult dental visit, your dentist will also gently clean your baby’s teeth and gums, then advise you about any issues they found. If you have any questions or concerns, they’ll be happy to spend some time going over everything with you so that you’ll be able to properly care for your child’s oral health.
As with most dentists, it’s recommended that your child visits the dentist twice a year (at a minimum) but ask your dentist if they recommend booking appointments more often based on the individual needs of your child. There’s a lot to take care of as a parent and having a good support team around you, including a great dentist, is the best way to make sure your child is putting their best tooth forward towards a future of good oral health. If you have more questions, contact your dentist for more information.