Regular dental visits are an important aspect of good oral health. Early visits for infants and toddlers can help to identify any dental issues or concerns and provide parents with tips on good oral hygiene for their children. Making your child acquainted with dental visits from an early age will help to make them more comfortable with future dental procedures and help them form healthy oral hygiene habits.
Why Babies Need Dental Care
Even though infants don't eat solid foods until they are several months old, breastmilk and formula can still cause plaque to form on newly erupted baby teeth. Baby teeth are placeholders for permanent teeth that won't begin to emerge until age 5 or later. Lack of dental care can lead to early tooth loss from cavities, which can impact eating, sleeping, and learning to say words. Practice good oral health by cleaning baby's gums with a soft cloth and gently brushing baby teeth with a soft infant toothbrush after feedings or at least twice per day.
Where to Go
Choosing a dental care provider If you are happy with your dental provider and feel comfortable with him or her treating your infant, contact your current dentist about scheduling a first dental exam. Many parents prefer to take their little ones to a pediatric dentist who specializes in treating infants and young children. Pediatric dentistry generally requires additional professional training after dental school to specialize in treating pediatric patients.
When to Schedule
After your baby's first tooth erupts is a good time to schedule his or her first dental visit, or by their first birthday, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. However, even if your baby's birthday has passed, it is never too late to schedule their initial visit. Scheduling a morning visit can help ensure that baby is not tired at the time of the appointment.
Once your baby has seen the dentist, plan to schedule checkups every six months. Regular exams can alert the dentist to any issues that may be caused by bottles, pacifiers or sippy cups.
How to Prepare
Practicing good dental hygiene at home from an early age, such as wiping their gums and brushing their teeth, will help to prepare your baby for the first dental visit. These healthy habits not only protect your child's oral health but also help your child acclimate to having something in their mouth. This should make your child more comfortable when the dentist performs the exam.
Allow your child to bring their favorite comfort item, such as a small toy or stuffed animal, to hold during the appointment. For toddlers seeing a pediatric dentist for the first time, consider scheduling a pre-appointment visit to familiarize your child with the office and staff. Before the appointment, read some picture books about going to the dentist with your child. At the dental office, try to remain calm and positive for your child to prevent them from feeling anxious or afraid.