The first few years of your child’s life are full of new experiences! You should schedule your little one’s first trip to the dentist around their first birthday or around the time they get their first tooth.
Murfreesboro Family Dentistry’s kid-friendly team is here to help your child feel comfortable at the dentist and maintain healthy smiles. Here are some easy ways to prepare your child for their first few visits to the dentist and help them develop good oral hygiene habits at a young age.
Preparing for their first visit to the dentist
Dr. Jackson and her team love welcoming children for their first visit to the dentist! Our goal is to help your little one feel comfortable and confident visiting the dentist.
One of the best things parents can do is have a positive mindset about the dentist themselves. Parents are often unaware that they can unintentionally pass their own fears to their children. Many children are comfortable and curious during their first exam until a parent inadvertently hints at fear or anxiety.
Comments like, “don’t worry, it won’t hurt and will only take a minute,” are meant to be soothing, but they can instill fear or concern in a child that wasn’t thinking it might hurt before. Parents need to maintain a calm, positive presence, so their children remain calm and confident.
If possible, schedule dental appointments for young children in the morning, either before or after nap time, when they are alert and not tired or hungry.
Prepare at home
“Practice” going to the dentist with your children at home. Help your children learn to open their mouths wide, and you can even practice “counting” each other’s teeth. There are many excellent children’s books about visiting the dentist as well.
Parents can also prepare at home for dental visits by asking for any patient forms and paperwork ahead of time. It will be less stressful to fill them out at home instead of in the waiting room while you are trying to keep your little one entertained and upbeat.
What to expect during the first visit
At your child’s first visit, the dentist will assess your little one’s teeth, jaw, gums, and soft tissue in their mouths. The dentist and hygienist will make sure everything is developing correctly, and the teeth are healthy. They will also check for injuries and cavities. The dentist will likely clean your child’s existing teeth, and they may recommend a fluoride treatment.
The primary goal of the first visit to the dentist is to make sure your child has healthy teeth and a healthy attitude toward the dentist.
There will also be opportunities for parents to ask the dentist any questions they may have. Your dentist may want to discuss things like pacifier use, thumb sucking, proper nutrition, and oral hygiene habits for your little tyke.
Children and dental x-rays
There’s no firm rule about when children should get their first dental x-rays. Most children will receive their first dental x-rays around five years of age. Children who have a higher risk for dental problems should get x-rays at a younger age. (Risk factors can include cleft lip or palate, “baby bottle tooth decay,” and other dental problems.)
Healthy oral hygiene habits for babies and toddlers
Starting before your baby begins teething, you should clean your baby’s gums with a clean, wet washcloth at least once a day or after feedings. When your little one begins teething, you should start cleaning their gums and teeth at least twice a day.
Switch from a washcloth to a soft baby toothbrush when your baby is about 12 months old. Most experts recommend starting with water on the toothbrush before introducing baby toothpaste that does not contain fluoride. Toothpaste without fluoride is safe for children to swallow, but it’s a good idea to practice spitting out the toothpaste.
Another way to help protect your baby’s teeth is to hold your little one when you give them a bottle. Don’t let your baby fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth or allow your toddler to walk around with a sippy cup unless it only contains water. To reduce the risk of cavities and tooth decay, only give your children juice, flavored milk, and other sugary drinks at mealtimes.
Murfreesboro Family Dentistry is here to help the whole family have happy, healthy smiles for a lifetime. Contact us today to learn more about our pediatric dentistry services and schedule your baby’s first dentist appointment!