A baby’s first dental visit is an important milestone in their development. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that this visit take place by the time your child reaches their first birthday. Many parents are unsure of what to expect during this appointment, and some may even wonder why it is necessary. In this blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about your baby’s first dental appointment so that you and your child can be prepared.
Why Schedule the First Visit So Early?
The first few years of life are crucial for your child’s oral health. This is the time when their primary teeth, or baby teeth, are erupting. It is important to establish good oral hygiene habits during this time so that your child can avoid tooth decay and other dental problems later in life.
As soon as your child’s first teeth erupt, usually around the age of six months, these teeth are at risk of tooth decay and cavities. Having your child see a dentist as soon as their first tooth erupts, allows their dentist to closely monitor their oral health and help you prevent their teeth from becoming decayed and prematurely lost.
Baby teeth are important because they:
- Help your child chew food
- Assist with proper speech development
- Maintain proper spacing for adult teeth
- Provide placeholders for adult teeth
- Allow the bite to develop properly
Although baby teeth will eventually fall out around the age of 6 or 7, they need to be cared for properly to prevent them from being lost too soon. When baby teeth are lost too soon, from falling out or being extracted, this can cause a variety of problems such as :
- Problems with chewing or eating
- Speech problems
- Shifting of permanent teeth
- Dental crowding or gaps in the teeth
- Jaw problems later in life
Choosing a Dentist:
The first step in preparing for your baby’s first dental appointment is finding a qualified dentist. You want to make sure that you find a dentist who has experience treating young children, as they will have different needs than an adult. There are two types of dentists that you can choose from: pediatric dentists and family dentists. Pediatric dentists are dentists who specialize in treating only children. They have undergone additional training in child-related dental issues and can provide your child with the specialized care they need. Family dentists are dentists who also treat children, but they may not have the same level of training as pediatric dentists. However, family dentists can accommodate both you and your child’s dental needs.
Preparing for the Appointment:
The first step to preparing for your child’s appointment is to call and schedule a time. When scheduling a time, be sure that it does not interrupt your child’s nap schedule. The best time to schedule their dental appointment tends to be in the morning or just after they wake up from their nap. This way your child is well-rested and more likely to cooperate.
Prior to your appointment, you will also need to consider your family’s dental history and your child’s oral health. You may also be given paperwork to fill out ahead of time or you may need to arrive early on the day of your appointment. While collecting all this information, you may also want to think of questions to ask your child’s dentist, such as:
- What type of toothpaste should I be using for my baby?
- How often should I be brushing my baby’s teeth?
- What are some signs that my child may need to see the dentist sooner than scheduled?
- What can I do to help prevent cavities in my child’s teeth?
- What are sealants and when are they recommended?
- How can I help alleviate the pain of teething?
- How much is too much when it comes to thumb or pacifier sucking?
Some parents also like to prepare their children for the appointment by playing “dentist” and watching videos or reading books about dental visits. This introduces your child to the dentist is a comfortable and fun environment, which can decrease their anxiety on the day of their appointment. Another way to decrease their anxiety is to arrive early to the appointment so that you are not stressed about being late. It is also helpful for you to remain calm before and during your child’s appointment to help them feel more at ease.
What to Expect During the Appointment:
During your child’s appointment, they will either sit in the dental chair or on your lap, depending on what is more comfortable for them. The dentist will start by examining your child’s mouth, gums, and teeth. They may use a small mirror and light to get a better look. The dentist may also clean your child’s teeth and apply fluoride to them.
They will likely talk to you about ways to prevent cavities, such as proper brushing techniques and diet. The dentist may also give you a list of things to watch out for, such as teething or thumb sucking. Finally, your child’s dentist will answer any questions you may have about your child’s oral health. This is why it is a good idea to have a list of questions written out ahead of time.
After the appointment, you should schedule a follow-up visit six months to one year later. You should also continue to brush your child’s teeth twice a day and help them floss once a day. You should also bring them in for regular dental check-ups as they get older. This will maintain their oral health as they grow up and instill good habits that will stay with them throughout their life.
In this blog, we have covered everything you need to know about your baby’s first dental appointment: why it’s necessary, how to choose a dentist, how to prepare, and what to expect during this first dental appointment. We hope that this blog has been informative and helpful in preparing you for your child’s first dental visit! Thank you for reading! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We would be happy to help!
Dr. Alina Huang has been practicing dentistry in Manhattan for the last eight years. She was born in New York City, and raised in California where she received her Bachelor’s degree at UCLA, and her D.D.S. at the University of the Pacific in San Francisco. She then made her return to NYC where she completed her General Practice Residency at Montefiore Medical Center and has been working in private practice ever since. She continues her learning by attending courses to stay current with the latest advancements in dentistry and refine her skills.