At one of your baby’s checkups, your pediatrician will likely recommend that you schedule your baby’s first dentist visit. When I was advised at six months to do so for AB, my first thought was, “Does my baby really need to go to the dentist?? She only has two little teeth!”
The visit would be covered by our insurance, so I figured it couldn’t hurt and went ahead and made the appointment. Still I wondered, what could possibly happen at a baby’s first dentist visit?
The answer is: not much, so there’s definitely nothing to worry about! We talked about AB’s eating habits (exclusively breastfed at the time), he cleaned her teeth, gave us the usual sample bag and instructions to clean her teeth every day as part of our bedtime routine.
It was a pleasant enough experience, but it didn’t seem necessary. I was also still a little confused about what I should be doing at home. Fortunately for me, one of my longtime friends is married to a dentist! I called up Dr. Boyd Dennington of Yountville Dental in Napa Valley, California and he was kind enough to answer a few questions of mine that I’m sure I many other moms share.
At the time of AB’s first visit, she had barely just sprouted her two bottom front teeth. It seemed a little silly to schedule a visit just to clean two tiny teeth! Dr. Dennington agrees that six months is on the early side for a baby’s first dentist visit, and that one year is generally the standard. However, he says that every baby is different, and early teethers could benefit from a checkup sooner. (So it wasn’t really a waste of time to have taken AB in at six months).
Regular visits to the dentist, starting early in a child’s life, will condition them to be comfortable with the dentist and routine dental care. He also suggests letting a child go to the exam room by themselves, so parents won’t unintentionally influence their child — many adults strongly dislike going to the dentist and kids easily pick up on that!
Even saying something seemingly reassuring like “don’t worry, it won’t hurt,” can plant negative thoughts. A child probably wasn’t even thinking that anything could hurt until their parent mentioned it!
Many adults are uncomfortable with the dentist due to bad past experiences, so if you condition your child with positive dental care experiences they won’t develop that same fear and will be more likely to continue good habits.
Here are some other pointers from Dr. Dennington on how to care for your baby or toddler’s teeth:
- Until your baby has teeth, gently wiping the gums with a soft cloth or gauze will keep their mouth clean. You could also use a training toothbrush, like this adorable “Baby Banana.”
- For babies and toddlers up to three years of age, brushing with a small, soft-bristled brush and water (or non-fluoride toothpaste) is plenty effective.
- If your baby still takes night feedings, try to finish with a few sips of water or wipe their teeth with a damp cloth to keep milk from sitting on their teeth while they sleep.
- Make brushing fun for your child (and easier for yourself!) by singing a special song. It might surprise you when brushing becomes a part of your nightly routine they look forward to! (We’ve created our own version of Raffi’s “Brush Your Teeth” song and it is a BIG deal in our house!) We also use a Dr. Fresh Kids Firefly Light-up Toothbrush, and that is definitely a hit too.
- Fluoride can be a hot-button topic, and the decision to add fluoride supplements to your baby’s diet is one that should be made with your dentist. It depends on several factors, including the amount of fluoride in your city’s water supply. (So definitely check with your family dentist first).
Dr. Boyd Dennington is a general and cosmetic dentist in Napa Valley, California. Be sure to check out his practice’s website: YountvilleDental.com and connect with Yountville Dental on Facebook for more valuable information, tips, or to schedule a visit if you’re in the area.
When did you first take you baby to the dentist? How do you make brushing fun at your house? Share your stories below!