Your child receives their first health check-up at just one week old when they meet their pediatrician for the first time. They’ll have their length and weight checked, their feeding patterns noted, and reflexes tested. You have a plan for your baby’s health, but what about their teeth?
The Canadian Dental Association recommends children have their first trip to the dentist within six months of the eruption of their first tooth, or by the time they’re one year old. Babies sometimes have their first tooth emerge at only three months, whereas others wait fourteen months until their begin to poke through. The goal of this initial visit won’t be to do active correction; it will be to check for any problems before they have a chance to grow bigger.
Picking a dentist for your child requires a bit more searching than just looking up the nearest office and booking an appointment. A pediatric dentist has two to three years specialty training following dental school, equipping them with more specialized knowledge of young mouths and the compassion and technique to make visits run smoother. They are better able to identify problems unique to infants and children. It’s preferable to fix any dental problems early in a child’s development. Fixing them once the mouth has fully developed is much more difficult, expensive, and stressful for the child.
The best way to find a good pediatric dentist is through word-of-mouth. If you live in a small town, there’s likely a reputable local dentist who has served other families. If you are in a city, ask other parents at daycare, school, or at parent groups.
Visit different dental clinics in your area and get an idea of them yourself before booking an appointment for your child. If the environment seems cold and intimidating, your child will most likely be bored and nervous. Most clinics are designed with adult patients in mind, meaning that the reclining chairs and dental equipment are adult-sized. Having to sit in an oversized chair and undergo procedures with adult-sized equipment is unnecessarily scary and painful. Specialized pediatric clinics should have conditions and equipment scaled to a child’s needs.
Your child’s first dentist appointment should be quick and easy. The dentist is simply checking to make sure nothing is awry and doing a very gentle cleaning. If your child is very young then the visit is less about treatment and more about having a positive first meeting between the child and the dentist. Parents may be asked to sit in the dentist’s chair themselves while they hold their baby. If the patient is a bit older, parents may be asked to sit in the waiting area so the child and their dentist can have a one-on-one talk.
The dentist will inspect all existing teeth for decay, check their bite, and look for any problems with their gums, jaws, or overall mouths. They’ll gently clean the teeth and give your child a fluoride treatment, if necessary. They’ll also give you and your child instructions on how to take care of their teeth, including a twice-a-day routine, preventative measures, diet guidance, and a recommended schedule to follow for planning future visits.
Some steps you can take to keep your child’s teeth healthy between visits include:
1. Don’t give bottles before bed
Milk contains simple sugars that ferment in the mouth overnight if your child’s mouth is not clean after their last bottle. As an alternative to milk, you can fill a bottle with warm water, which is also comforting and doesn’t leave behind a sticky residue. If you would like to give a bedtime bottle of milk, give your child’s teeth a quick brush or a wipe with a cloth so they can have a clean and comfortable mouth while they sleep.
2. Make oral education a priority
As soon as your children are old enough to understand, teach them how to look after their teeth, and why oral hygiene is important. Make their routine fun with brightly coloured or character toothbrushes and kid-friendly toothpaste flavours. If your child is iffy about toothpaste, teach them to brush with water. It’s the mechanical motion of the toothbrush that cleans the teeth more than the toothpaste itself. Just make sure they brush for a full two minutes, spending thirty seconds on each quadrant of the mouth. Make sure that they see you setting a good example, too.
3. Don’t give out sticky candies
Generally, all candy is bad for the teeth,but sticky candies adhere to the enamel so they can damage it more.
Your child’s first dental visit should take place shortly after the eruption of their first tooth or by age one. Pediatric dentists are able to spot and treat oral problems that could lead to a more serious issue down the road. They’re also essential for a child’s relationship with their oral health. Get started early and ensure your child has their best shot at a happy, healthy, and brilliant smile.