Taking Baby To Dentist Tips
There will be plenty of firsts in your baby’s first year. One of the most important is taking your baby to the dentist. It may seem unbelievable, but most dentists will expect to see a baby at least once in the first year of life.
The general recommendation for taking your baby to the dentist is within the first six months after her first tooth comes in. At the latest, you should schedule an appointment before her first birthday.
The first appointment will be a time for the dentist to look at your baby’s mouth and make sure there are no red flags that could signal potential problems. He will also discuss some important information that you may not get from your pediatrician.
Your baby’s dentist may discuss:
- Feeding practices, asking how feeding is currently going and making recommendations for the future.
- Cleaning teeth, again, asking what you are currently doing, and letting you know what he recommends going forward.
- Issues surrounding tooth decay from spending too much time using a bottle.
- Teething and ways to minimize discomfort for your baby.
- Self-soothing techniques, such as using a pacifier or sucking on her fingers or a comfort object.
A good introduction when taking your baby to the dentist is important for both your child and you. Preparing ahead of time can help minimize any problems and ease stress. The first dental appointment is a session for everyone to get to know one another, and you want it to be as pleasant as possible for everyone.
1. Make Sure the Dental Staff Knows it is a First Visit
If you are making a dental appointment for a 6 or 9-month-old, you may assume the dental staff will know it is the first appointment. Take an extra minute when scheduling the appointment to point out that it is your baby’s first appointment and ask if there is anything you should do to make the appointment easier.
Make sure to check that you are permitted to go back to the exam room with your baby when setting the appointment. This may seem like a given with a young child, but some dentists believe children act better without the parent in the room. While this may be the case for school-age children, for babies you must be in the room during the exam.
Another thing to ask the staff when taking your baby to the dentist is about how long you should expect the appointment to last. You know your child best, so knowing how long to expect to be in the dentist’s office can help you determine how to plan the rest of your day. You want your baby to be rested and content for the appointment. Only you can decide how to best do that. Should she have a snack before going in? Should you plan for a nap on the car ride so she is ready to go when she gets there?
Regardless of how you plan your schedule, the dental appointment should be the focus of the day. Do not try to fit it in among other errands and expect your baby to do well. If the appointment goes well and your baby is content, you can handle those errands after the appointment.
2. Spend a Few Minutes Cleaning Your Baby’s Teeth and Gums a Few Times a Day
There won’t be much actual tooth care going when taking your baby to the dentist for the first time, but he will want to look in your child’s mouth. You can make this less of a shock to your baby by wiping off any teeth he has as well as his gums a few times a day. A damp square of gauze or soft toothbrush will do a great job and help your child see there is nothing scary about someone working in her mouth.
You should continue this process throughout your baby’s early childhood. Your dentist can help you determine when your child is ready to take over cleaning on her own, but in the meantime, you should make sure you are working in her mouth at least twice a day. The first visit to the dentist will not involve much work, but eventually, she is going to have to lay in the chair and hold her mouth open for cleaning. If she is not accustomed to having her mouth handled at home, she will have much more trouble at the dentist.
3. Introduce the Concept of a Dentist Through Books and Play
There are several books for young children that talk about visiting the dentist. Add one or more of these to your baby’s bookshelf. This allows her to get comfortable with the idea of a dentist and understand that visiting one is a normal and necessary part of life.
You may also find small figurines, dolls or other playthings that encourage pretend dentist visits. Adding these to the toy box and playing with them can help your baby and young child feel more confident before taking your baby to the dentist for the first time.
4. Select a Pediatric Dentist
You may be tempted to select the dentist closest to your home or daycare for your appointment, or you may plan to set up an appointment with the dentist that you currently use. While those can be okay options, a pediatric dentist is better equipped to deal with very young children. Their training and experience are geared toward babies and small children. Their office and exam room is designed for the comfort of the youngest patients. If there is a pediatric dentist within a reasonable distance you will probably find them to be worth the drive when taking your baby to the dentist.
5. Plan for Success
Few adults look forward to dental visits. When taking baby your to the dentist it is important that you not transmit those emotions. By starting dental appointments early you are hopefully saving your child from uncomfortable or even painful visits in the future. There is no reason to send the message that dental work is scary or should be avoided. When taking your baby to the dentist, you should be relaxed and confident. Stress and nervousness will transmit to your baby, making the process more difficult than it needs to be.
6. Consider Appointment Time
Another way to have the best experience when taking your baby to the dentist is to make the appointment for your baby’s best time of day. If she is naturally active and sunny in the morning, but cranky as the day wears on, it makes sense to schedule your appointment for the morning. If she is a late sleeper or takes a long morning nap that she may miss or have to cut short for a morning appointment, an afternoon visit makes more sense.
Whether you are taking your baby to the dentist for the first time, or you are making a return visit, these tips can help make the process much less painful for your baby, your dentist and you. Good dental care is important. Many parents mistakenly believe that dental care in the early years is not vital because the teeth are going to come out anyway. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Taking your baby to the dentist is vital for your baby’s long-term health. Lack of dental care in the early years can have devastating effects on your child for the rest of her life. Poor dental hygiene can lead to early tooth loss. It is important that the primary, or baby, teeth remain in place until they are ready to come out naturally. Healthy primary teeth are also important in helping your child chew properly, for proper speech development and in saving the space needed for the permanent teeth to come in.