When your baby’s first teeth appear, it’s an exciting time! There are so many hallmarks in a small child’s life and getting teeth is certainly one of them! The appearance of those first tiny white nubs mean that- before long – your child will be transitioning from just breast milk or formula to baby food and table foods. Before you know it, he or she will be joining you at the dining table, eating the same things you enjoy every day.
But with those first teeth also comes responsibility. Tooth decay and other oral health issues can happen at the drop of a hat if parents don’t take the initiative to start caring for their children’s teeth at a young age.
Just like any other part of the body, you want to make sure their teeth and mouth stay healthy. When you don’t, it can greatly affect your child’s overall well-being and cause concerns that reach well beyond just their teeth and mouth.
When should my child see the dentist?
Chances are you’ll see your child’s first teeth – usually the two on the bottom front – somewhere between the ages of about 6 months and a year old. Some children’s teeth may erupt sooner, others later. The two upper front teeth will appear shortly thereafter and then your child’s smile will quickly fill up with other teeth.
Most dental professionals, including our Anchorage pediatric dentists, recommend that your child visit their dentist shortly after that first tooth appears or no later than a year old.
At first thought, that might seem silly to you. After all, what could go wrong with those tiny little teeth, especially if your child is drinking only milk or formula and eating soft foods?
Why such an early first dental visit?
Well, there’s plenty of written, scientific proof that early examinations and regular check-ups and visits that start with those first teeth can help your child avoid a lot of dental problems in their childhood and teen years.
Parents that bring their kids to the pediatric dentist early in life are the same parents who are most likely to bring them back for regular check-ups, studies show, and that’s important!
And parents who make sure their children have regular check-ups also spend less money on dental care overall or on dental emergencies because those little teeth stay healthier because of those visits.
Early and regular visits help establish a “dental home”
As an adult, you’ve likely found that it’s important to deal with medical professionals that you can trust. No matter what kind of doctor you need to see, you want that person to be kind, caring, and good at what they do. Hopefully, you’ve found a dentist with whom you’re comfortable and are eager for your child(ren) to be comfortable with dental care as well.
Part of getting them to reach that comfort level lies in establishing a “dental home” for your child or children. That means making a connection at an early age with a caring pediatric dentist of your choice who is an expert at working with children and adept at caring for the needs of the young patient.
When you find a pediatric dentist that you like, taking your child to this practice on a regular basis allows patient and dentist to form a bond and a trusting, lasting relationship.
Trust is also built between caregiver and parents/guardians when there’s a dental home established, making it easier for the dentist to provide suggestions on oral hygiene practices, dietary counseling, oral habits (like thumb sucking), and – later down the line – orthodontics and other treatment.
What to expect at the first dental visit
Your child’s first dental visit is an important one. That’s why it’s essential to choose the right pediatric dentist, one that has a proven track record with children.
Why a pediatric dentist as opposed to someone who treats all ages? Its’ simple. It’s because a dentist that specializes in working with children has extra training that helps them understand all the specifics of your child’s growing mouth and teeth. They’re also experts at putting children at ease and their staff is trained to do the same.
You’ll probably even find kid-friendly décor, video games, puzzles, coloring books, and more in the waiting areas. It’s a win-win situation for you and your child!
Once you’ve made that choice, get ready to schedule your child’s first dental appointment. First, consider the time of day you want to bring your child. That’s super important because you want your baby to be awake and in a good mood for that first appointment.
Next, if your child is older, talk to him or her about the visit so that they’re prepared for what’s to come. Be upbeat and don’t let any of your dentist phobias show! It’s easy for kids to pick up your anxieties so if you’re a mom with severe dental phobia, for example, consider sending dad to that first visit and subsequent appointments instead of going yourself.
You’ll also want to let your dentist know if there’s any situations of which they should be aware, such as if your older child is particularly defiant or extremely fearful. This way, he or she can call upon their education and make adjustments as necessary.
And, of course, if your child has special needs, the dentist should be informed at the time you make the appointment.
It’s likely that the first dental visit will last about 30 minutes and much of it will involve discussion between you and the dentist, especially if you are first-time parents. The dentist will also take a look at your baby’s teeth, gums, jaws, bite, and oral tissues in order to detect anything that might be amiss. He or she will also gently clean your baby’s teeth and will show you how to do it at home, too.
Your pediatric dentist will also talk to you about other things that can affect your child’s oral health, including:
- Good oral hygiene practices for your child’s teeth and gums, like how to brush and when to start using toothpaste or floss.
- Cavity prevention
- Fluoride needs, if your municipal water does not provide it
- Oral habits that can harm teeth like thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, lip sucking, and others
- Keeping track of developmental milestones
- Teething and how to handle the discomfort associated with it
- Proper nutrition to keep teeth healthy
- Schedule of dental checkup visits. Most dentist recommend check-ups every 6 months so that the baby/child begins to feel comfortable with the dentist and the procedures involved.
Remember, good dental habits start with you – the parent! Establishing a regular pattern of care means visits to the pediatric dentist will begin to feel “normal” to your child and it’s likely that they’ll grow up with little fear of dental care and a beautiful, healthy smile as well.
If you have not established a dental home or your child has not had their first dental visit, please call Anchorage Pediatric Dentistry at (907)562-1003 to schedule an appointment with one of our Board Certified Pediatric Dentists! We would love to become your “dental home”!