Baby Steps: Your Child’s First Dentist Visit
Your child’s first dentist visit shouldn’t be delayed. Tooth decay is a fairly common health issue in Australian children as little as age five. Young children have an average of one and a half-decayed or missing teeth, which may interfere with speech development and nutrition. What’s more, dental health issues usually do not end when the rotten baby teeth’s permanent successors come through.
Therefore, it’s important to look after your baby’s oral health from the moment they start teething and develop good habits they’ll hopefully keep for life. But when is the right time for your child’s first dentist visit and what happens during the appointment? We’ll discuss these and related questions in today’s article.
Caring for your baby’s teeth
Many babies begin teething at only three months old. From the very first tooth on, your baby will greatly benefit from your dedication to good dental care. You should start caring for your baby’s teeth from day one. As soon as the first little tooth pokes through the gums, you’ll want to use a clean, damp washcloth to gently clean their tiny teeth.
Clean teeth and gums after meals and at bedtime
By the tender age of one, most children have about eight baby teeth. By then, we recommend using a soft toothbrush to get them accustomed to brushing their teeth. Moist the brush with water and use no more than a lentil-sized amount of low-fluoride toothpaste. Just as your own toothbrush, you should change your baby’s brush every two to three months, because bacteria can build up between the bristles.
When should your child first see a dentist?
The earlier the better! Baby teeth aren’t exempt from tooth decay, so it’s very important to not only take preventative measures but detect any issues early to keep your child from experiencing any pain or discomfort from dental caries and cavities.
We recommend taking your child to the dentist during its first year of life.
You may want to bring your baby with you when you yourself are coming in for a checkup. This will get them accustomed to the friendly faces of our team and they can see for themselves that nothing scary happens during the appointment.
Later on, they will know what to expect and have already developed a positive relationship with their dentist. The Australian Dental Association recommends that babies have their first dental checkup within six months of their first tooth appearing, and no later than their first birthday.
Don’t delay your child’s first dentist appointment!
Delaying your child’s first dentist visit can have serious consequences. A recent report showed that treating severe tooth decay in infants or young children under the age of six accounts for approximately one-third of dental surgeries performed on preschoolers.
Baby teeth can be in your child’s mouth until they’re a teenager. Rotten, infected or missing teeth can impact your child’s health and affect how they feel about themselves. When a tooth goes missing too early, the teeth on either side can sink into the gap, blocking permanent teeth from coming through or causing them to grow crooked.
Oftentimes, crooked teeth straighten out as the jaw grows and the rest of the teeth come in.
Should they not, your child could develop a bite problem, which can cause issues with eating and brushing teeth.
Prevention, once again, is better than cure. This is why adopting healthy oral care practices at home matters.
3 reasons to take your child for dental exams at an early age:
- Find out if your dental care routine is working.
- Identify any health concerns before they become a serious problem.
- Get your baby accustomed to going to the dentist.
Your child’s first dentist visit
Our wonderful team here at Admire Dentistry are experienced in providing the highest standard of care to all of our patients, but especially the youngest ones. We believe that a strong foundation for great oral health has to be laid early through fun and positive experiences.
At your child’s first appointment we’ll focus on getting them familiarised with the new environment and take a quick look at their teeth. To help them relax, we often ask parents to sit in the dental chair with their little ones.
Things we’ll discuss with you may include how your child’s teeth are developing, teething tips, thumb-sucking habits and your at-home brushing routine, types of toothpaste and brushes you should be using, as well as dietary tips – especially the negative effects of sugar on your child’s teeth.
After the initial appointment, we generally recommend a checkup every six months.
What if your child is already older?
If your child is 24 months or older and hasn’t been to the dentist yet, don’t worry. It’s not too late to get on board. When a toddler or child comes in for their first appointment, we’ll ensure they’re absolutely comfortable. We’ll make sure they understand what a dentist is and how we can help them. Our team will answer every question they may have and show them the instruments we use, so they know that they can absolutely trust their dentist.
We might take X-rays to scan for decay between the teeth, detect any bite problems and to check if their teeth are coming in as they should. Most children will have first X-rays taken by the age of 6. By then, kids start to lose their baby teeth and have their permanent, adult teeth growing in. X-rays help to detect any issues early on and to take preventative measures.
We may also talk to you about fluoride. Crucial in combating tooth decay, fluoride gives their teeth extra strength and slows the growth of bacteria in the mouth, which are the root cause for decay.
Preparing for future dentist visits
It’s absolutely normal for your baby to fuss at the dentist. We find that it can be helpful to play dentist at home to take their fear. You may count your child’s teeth and explain what the dentist does to take care of their teeth. Create a friendly atmosphere when you talk about the dentist to prepare them. Never use the dentist as a threat.
Talk about the experience positively and avoid using words like “scared”, “drill”, “needles” or saying “it won’t be that bad”. You can also let them know that you’ll be with them during the entire appointment. You can bring their toys etc to make them feel comfortable.
Don’t be nervous! Your child will see straight through you and it can rub off on them. Stay positive and let your dentist do what they do best.
Tips to prevent tooth decay in babies and young children
You might not be able to see them, but at birth, your baby has about twenty primary teeth sitting safely in its jaw, some of which are already fully developed. To avoid dental decay, good care has to begin before your baby’s first tooth comes in. This may include:
- Your baby’s teeth develop during the first trimester of pregnancy. Make sure to maintain a good diet!
- Breastfeed if possible. Studies indicate that breastfed babies have fewer cavities.
- Bottles are for feeding times only. Never put a baby to bed with a bottle or sippy cup of milk or juice.
- Start bottle weaning and introduce drinking from a cup at 12 months.
- Never dip dummies in honey, sugar or other sweet substances.
- Feed your baby a healthy diet low in sugar.
- Off your child cheese, fruits, vegetables and nuts as snacks.
- Use a damp cloth to wipe your babies’ mouth after feeding.
- When your child is older, use a soft toothbrush and lentil-sized amount of low-fluoride toothpaste after every meal.
- Check your child’s teeth regularly to spot early signs of decay.
- Help your child with brushing until they are old enough to do so unsupervised.
- Celebrate and reinforce good oral care.
If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s dental needs and what to expect when they visit the dentist, then feel free to give us a call. If you would like to schedule an appointment for your child with Dr Alex Davies you can book online via this link or call us on (07) 3064 1044