There's a significant list of milestones your new baby will reach over their first year of life. And as any parent knows, your child's overall health is a top priority at any age. One of the most critical parental tasks during the first year of life is to schedule your child's first dentist appointment. As a general guideline, the American Academy of Pediatrics Dentistry and Pediatricians agree that children should visit a pediatric dentist by their first birthday regardless of how many teeth they have by this point.
Read on to learn more about what to expect during this routine exam and what you can do to help make it a positive experience for your baby.
Baby's First Dentist Appointment
The thought of taking your tiny baby to the dentist at such a young age may be surprising, but the truth is many children are diagnosed with their first cavity as early as the age of 2. In fact, it's reported that 1 in 4 children in the United States has at least one cavity by the age of 4.
To better equip you as a parent, Tompkins Dental will help guide you through how to prevent early childhood cavities by discussing the following at your child's first exam:
- How to properly care for an infant's mouth.
- How to use fluoride to prevent cavities, and at what age to start using it.
- Your child's oral habits, including sucking on fingers, pacifiers, and bottles.
- Ways to prevent accidents that can damage your child's teeth.
- Teething developments and how to help alleviate teething pain.
- Your child's diet and how it will affect the overall health of their teeth and gums.
Finding the Right Dentist
The idea of a stranger attempting to peek inside your baby's mouth long enough to see much of anything is probably funny to imagine. However, most dental schools have prepared dental hygienists and dentists to provide care for young children. Finding a dentist that both you and your child are comfortable with is a critical piece in making their first dental appointment a positive experience.
To find a dentist that cares for young children, we recommend:
- Calling your current dentist's office to ask them what age their office recommends children be seen for their first dental appointment. The answer you're looking for from them is that a child should be seen by their first birthday.
- Ask your current dentist if their team cares for young children and infants.
- If your current office does not offer pediatric dentistry, ask them for a referral to a local pediatric dental office.
- Ask for references from other parents in your area with small children who have likely taken their children for their first exam.
- Search for a pediatric dentist in your area on www.aapd.org through their "Find a Pediatric Dentist" link.
Preparation Is Key
Babies and young children don't have dental appointments that resemble your adult cleanings and exams. The primary purpose behind your child seeing a dentist by their first birthday is to educate you as a parent on your child's oral health. Learning the best methods for taking care of children's teeth before any problems occur is always the best way to keep your baby's teeth healthy.
During your baby's first exam, ask questions like:
- How to care for your child's mouth and teeth.
- How to help relieve teething pain without damaging gum tissue.
- What to do in case of an accident or dental emergency.
- How often to schedule cleanings and exams.
- Factors that affect the risk of your baby developing cavities, such as diet and hygiene habits.
Benefits of Early Dental Visits
Scheduling dental exams for your child every six months will help keep your child comfortable in a dental office setting and with our staff. Waiting until your child is 2 or 3 to schedule their first dental exam makes it that much more likely that they will have a cavity that will require general anesthesia for treatment. Many dental problems in child development are entirely preventable with proper parental care and with proper preventative care.
Our dental team at Tompkins Dental is here to help you navigate prevent many common oral health issues as your child grows, so be sure to schedule their first exam with us today!