What Can I Expect During My Baby’s First Dental Appointment?
Teaching Your Child to Love Their Smile
Preparing for a baby is thrilling and sometimes nerve-wracking. You need a name and a nursery theme and cute little onesies and blankies and toys, and it feels like the list never ends! After all, anything to welcome your little one to the world.
One thing parents tend to not have on their baby’s to-do list is a first dental appointment. Obviously, this isn’t one of the first things you do when a baby is born, but it’s important to have a plan and think about it ahead of time.
Once you see that little white cap of a tooth peeking out of their gums, they’re ready to meet the dentist! What should you expect during your baby’s first dental appointment? We’ve outlined the process below, so you know exactly what will happen.
Before the First Dental Appointment
If you can, schedule your baby’s first dental appointment for the morning. That way, your little one will be refreshed. This also lets your baby stay on schedule for their nap later in the day.
The dentist will need to learn more about the child’s health and identify any risk factors. It can be helpful to take notes in the weeks prior to the appointment. To prepare, be ready to discuss your child’s:
- Current health.
- Medical history.
- Diet and feeding practices.
- Fluoride use.
- Current oral care practices.
- Habits that involve the mouth or teeth (like thumb sucking).
If your child requires any medications, ointments, or vitamins, write them down and give them to your dentist to keep on file. As with all doctor’s appointments, double check your insurance policy and what it covers for your baby so there are no surprises.
Checking in for Your Baby’s First Dental Appointment
Do your best to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early for the first dental appointment. You will need to fill out new patient information forms for the baby so the dentist can keep a file for them.
Feel free to bring a comfort item for your child. Maybe it’s their favorite book or a soft blanket. This is a new experience for your baby, and you want to teach them there is nothing to be afraid of. Bringing a comfort item can ease them into a new experience.
The Dental Checkup
When it’s time for the checkup, you will carry your baby into a private room. The dentist will sit in a chair opposite you and your baby. He or she will ask you to hold your child on your lap, facing you. You will carefully lower your child’s head onto the dentist’s lap. This will allow both you and the dentist to get a good look in the baby’s mouth.
If the dentist finds plaque, he or she will use a soft toothbrush to clean it off. The dentist will make sure everything looks normal and that there’s no sign of concern. They will count their teeth and give your child’s teeth a nice brush before sending you on your way!
After the checkup, the dentist will discuss suggestions for optimal at-home oral care. This is also an excellent time to ask your dentist any teeth-related questions you may have.
At-Home Oral Health for Babies
Once your visit is over, it’s a good time to work in healthy oral habits to your child’s lifestyle. It’s all about encouraging your child to make dental hygiene a habit. This can be a fun process, for example, let them pick out a fun toothbrush that they like.
Since habits are so important for dental hygiene, as your child gets older and starts to brush their own teeth, create a sticker chart with a checklist that your child can fill out when they complete their routine in the mornings and evenings. Get creative!
Enforcing strong oral care habits in young children sets the stage for a healthy oral care routine throughout life.
Ease Teething Pain
Be on the lookout for signs of teething. Inspect your child’s mouth regularly and be aware if they are increasingly chewing on toys or household items. Certain topical gels or cold packs are helpful for soothing the pain they are feeling.
Teething typically begins between six and eight months, but it can start as early as three months of age. Signs of teething include:
- Swollen gums.
- Frequent fussiness.
- Placing hands in the mouth.
- Facial rashes.
- Changes in eating behaviors.
During teething, gently rub your child’s gums with a damp washcloth. You can also try feeding your child soft, cold foods like mashed bananas, fruit purees, and yogurt.
Prevent Cavities and Build Healthy Gums
When your baby finishes a meal, wipe a wet washcloth over their gums. This will remove lingering particles that cause plaque.
As more baby teeth grow in, use a soft-bristle toothbrush and room-temperature water to gently scrub the teeth and gums twice per day. Engage your child while you do this. Let them be a part of the experience and understand what is going on. After all, you won’t be able to brush their teeth forever!
At 18 months, start using toothpaste. Apply a pea-sized amount to the toothbrush and gently scrub their teeth and gums. Choose a child-friendly toothpaste that is safe to swallow.
Make the toothbrushing process positive and fun. Smile and tell your little one how strong his or her teeth are. Sing a fun song that your child enjoys while brushing.
Be mindful of how much sugar your little one consumes. Drinking juice is a common way for babies to consume too much sugar. If your child absolutely loves juice, water it down a bit to keep that sugar intake low.
Is it time for your baby’s first dental appointment?
Early dental care is an opportunity for a professional to assess your child’s oral health and prevent future problems (like cavities). The visit is a great time for parents to learn about caring for baby teeth and the best at-home oral care practices. By practicing strong oral habits early, you can set your child’s teeth and gums up for a healthy life.
Is it time to schedule your child’s first dental appointment? We’re here for you. Contact Bruce Sexton, DDS, and we will make sure your child’s first dental exam is a success.