Ensuring your baby sees a dentist early in life is good practice for setting the stage for good oral health for the rest of your child’s life. Babies are born with all of their primary teeth already in their gums. Babies typically start to teethe between the 6 months of age and one year. While baby teeth erupt at different times for every child, they all catch up to one another by the time they are teenagers and usually have all of their adult teeth by their adolescent years. But before you start thinking about braces and retainers, let’s look at when you should start bringing your baby to the dentist, what you can expect, and how to plan for subsequent follow-up visits with your baby’s dentist.
When Should You Take Your Baby to the Dentist?
Typically, babies should be seen by a dentist when their first teeth start to break through the gums. Before then, your family doctor, or pediatrician will typically keep an eye on the baby’s mouth and gums to make sure there are no problems before the baby is seen by a dentist. By the time the baby has started to teethe, they are usually 6 months old. Parents can wait until the baby has more teeth if the teeth are coming in without too much trouble, but you won’t want to wait longer than one year of age. This is an important time your baby’s development. Some dentists may recommend seeing the baby earlier, or later in their development, so when you call your dentist to ask for an appointment, be sure to clarify when the dentist prefers to start following a child patient.
What Kind of Dentist Should You Take Your Child to Visit?
There are two types of dentists that babies and children typically see when they are in their teething stages of life: a general dentist, one that sees both children and adults on a regular basis for cleanings and common dental problems; and a pediatric dentist, which may or may not be available in your area. Pediatric dentists specialize in working with infants, children, and teenagers, and typically have 2-3 years more training than a general dentist. You may be referred to a pediatric dentist if your baby has issues with teething or their gums. Dentists, in general, are well equipped to manage the day to day care of infants during their teething stages.
How to Prepare For Your First Visit to the Dentist With Your Baby
When you first call for an appointment with your dentist, you’ll want to have your dental insurance or other healthcare related information ready, such as the baby’s date of birth, how many teeth they have, if they have seen another dentist prior to this visit, and if they have any medical conditions.
What Will the First Visit to the Dentist be Like?
When you arrive at the dentist, you’ll register for your baby’s appointment and have to present your dental insurance information, if applicable. It won’t be much different from when you visit the dentist yourself, except that you’ll have to provide information for your baby. Once you’ve been registered, the dentist will usually ask the mother or father to sit in the dental chair and place the baby on his or her lap. This is much easier than trying to have a baby sit still in a large chair. Some pediatric dentists office will have high chairs - like the ones you use to feed your baby in an upright position - but for the most part, it’s easier to just sit the baby on a parent’s lap.
The first visit to the dentist will not take much time at all. Because your baby won’t have many teeth and will likely have a healthy mouth overall, the dentist will do a general inspection of the gums and any teeth that have erupted (pushed through the gums), ask parents if there have been any problems associated with teething or other issues of the mouth, and then maybe do a light gum cleaning. The dentist will also ask about eating or nursing habits and check for evidence of bottle decay. The dentist and assistant will record the information collected throughout the examination and will likely book you a follow-up appointment every 6 to 9 months. The follow-up time is usually 6 months, however, some medical insurance plans will only allow for 9 or 12-month visits. You’ll want to discuss this with the booking receptionist when you are making subsequent appointments.
How to Care For Your Baby’s Teeth
Your baby’s dentist will be able to show you how to properly care for your baby’s teeth. Even if your baby doesn’t have any teeth yet, it is important to “brush” the gums. There are several devices available for cleaning gums that slip on the end of parent’s finger, and the mother or father can gently run the gums to clean them. When your baby does get teeth, using a very soft bristle brush, with just water or with a toothpaste designed for infants is best. The use of fluoride is not recommended for children under the age of 3. Special toothpaste is available for infants without fluoride at your local department store, pharmacy and grocery stores. Your dentist can also provide you with samples of toothpaste that is designed for babies and small children.
New parents are often plagued by worrying about their new babies. They want the best for them and their health, and sometimes, parents don’t realize the importance of having a dentist check your baby at such an early age, especially if everything appears to be normal. A dentist is trained to spot issues that parents may not be aware of and can remedy problems early on for the child so that they may experience the best possible chance for good oral health throughout their lifetime. Your baby’s dentist should be included as part of an overall good health plan as the baby grows into childhood and adolescents, so make your appointment to have your baby’s teeth and mouth examined today.