When to Take Your Baby to the Dentist

It is a lot earlier than you think!

We have found that most people have no idea when to take their babies to the dentist for the first time.

When Should Baby’s First Dental Visit Happen?

The American Association of Pediatric Dentist recommends you take your baby to the dentist when the first tooth appears or no later than his or her first birthday.  We know that is probably a lot sooner than you expected.

The average age of a baby when the first tooth appears is six to seven months, but the normal range includes plus or minus six months.  This means it is normal for a baby to not get a tooth until one year old or even to have teeth at birth!

So the recommendation for a dental visit when the first tooth appears or by the first birthday encompasses any of these possibilities.

What to Expect at a Baby Dental Visit

There are two important aspects of a baby’s dental visit: 1) evaluating the baby’s teeth, mouth, and jaws, and 2) teaching the parent the best way to take care of the baby’s teeth.

Dental Evaluation

When babies comes to the pediatric dentist, it is completely normal for them to cry.  In fact, crying makes it easier for us to see inside their mouths.  We do not take any x-rays or use any sharp tools on a baby.  At the most, we use the small mouth mirror to get the best view of the baby’s entire mouth.

Most of the time, we will perform what is called a “lap exam”.  The dentist and baby’s parent will sit knee-to-knee, forming a small table for the baby to lay on, with the baby’s head in the dentist’s lap.  This allows the dentist to look down into the baby’s mouth quickly and easily.

The dentist evaluates the growth and development of the jaws, the health of the gums, and the pattern of any incoming teeth.  If the baby allows, the dentist can also demonstrate techniques for cleaning the baby’s teeth.

Parent Education

This is probably the most important of a baby’s first dental visit.  As the parent, you need to know exactly how to take care of your child’s teeth.

Just like the questions about when the first dental visit should be, we hear surprise from parents hearing that they should be cleaning their babies’ teeth as soon as they appear.  Cleaning does not always mean brushing.  It can be as simple as using a warm, wet washcloth to wipe plaque from the baby teeth.  Each baby may require a slightly different technique.  This is why a visit with the dentist is so important.

The dentist also needs to inform parents of any specific problems or risks a child exhibits.  Our goal is to help every patient prevent as many dental problems as possible.  Catching red flags or risk areas as early as we can helps us do the best preventive dentistry.

How to Care for Your Baby’s Teeth

The parent’s role in caring for a baby’s teeth involves performing the oral hygiene necessary to keep the teeth healthy and watching the baby’s nutrition.

Oral Hygiene

As stated earlier, you do need to clean your baby’s teeth as soon as they appear.  This goes for breast-fed babies as well as formula babies.  Babies are born without bad bacteria in their mouths.  We give the bacteria to them by kissing them and sharing spoons with them.  Parents transmit to their babies the bacteria that build up on the teeth in plaque.

Therefore, we have to remove any plaque from their teeth on a daily basis.  In most cases, a warm, wet washcloth used gently on the teeth and gums will clean the plaque away.  As multiple teeth appear side by side, a toothbrush will become more effective.  Infant toothbrushes have very soft bristles and do not hurt the baby’s tender gums.

Nutrition

Preventing cavities on your baby’s teeth is essential to his or her overall health!  The most important role you play in preventing cavities is in your choice of nutrition for the baby.

Cavities in very young children usually result from a diet that is high in sugar and a habit that gives them access to that sugar for long periods of time.  If your baby takes a bottle or sippy cup to bed, it should contain water only.  Even plain milk contains enough sugar to cause cavities if the baby sips on it throughout the night.

Severe cases of baby tooth decay result from bottles or sippy cups with fruit juices, sodas, or milk with an added sweetener like honey.  This is very dangerous for your child’s teeth!

Babies must be protected from the high sugar content of drinks many adults have grown accustomed to.  The enamel on a baby tooth is much thinner than a permanent tooth.

This means cavities start more easily and grow more quickly on a baby tooth than on a permanent tooth!

Is It Time for Your Baby’s First Dental Visit?

Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule your baby’s first dental visit with one of our wonderful dentists.  We will get you on the right track to keeping your baby’s teeth healthy throughout the rest of his or her life!