A Happy Child and Tooth

ORAL HEALTH & DENTISTRY

When Do Babies Go to the Dentist?

Written By : Generations of Smiles Writers

Reviewed By : Charles Rodgers, DDS

Published: Nov 27, 2023

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

While parents may understand the need to brush and floss their own teeth regularly, adding a new bundle of joy to your home means adding a new mouth that needs care and attention. You may still be adjusting to life with a baby, but as your baby begins cutting teeth, you will be responsible for brushing their teeth and making sure their mouth stays healthy. 

Part of preventing tooth decay in babies involves taking your little one to the dentist for routine visits. The Mouth-Body Connection is crucial to your baby's overall health. You can help set your child up for a healthy mouth by making your baby's oral hygiene a daily priority.

Why Early Dental Care Matters

Routine dental visits are a key factor for healthy mouths because a dentist can identify tooth decay, gum disease, or a problematic bite early so it can be addressed. Regular oral health care helps prevent dental issues from becoming worse. This is true for patients of any age. However, you may not think babies need to go to the dentist because they have fewer teeth, but babies can develop cavities just like children and adults. 
You may be surprised to learn that babies often consume foods with sugars that can lead to cavities. Baby food and drinks that contain sugars include:
  • Milk
  • Carbohydrates like rice cereal
  • Formula
  • Fruit juices
  • Teething cookies
  • Fruit
Allowing your baby to go to sleep with a bottle in their mouth is a way for tooth decay to develop because the sugars in the milk, formula, or juice sit on their teeth through the night, allowing plaque and bacteria to accumulate, eventually damaging the enamel if left too long on the teeth. 

First Dental Visit Timeline

Around the time your baby is starting to crawl, they may also be cutting their first tooth. While you may think your child is too young to go to the dentist, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests scheduling your child’s first dentist appointment by their first birthday and then again every six months throughout their childhood.

Not only will the dentist check for any signs of tooth decay developing in your child’s primary teeth, but the appointment also aims to make going to the dentist familiar and comfortable for your child. 

While tooth decay does not simply appear out of nowhere, cavities can develop over weeks and months through either improper brushing habits or because your child goes to bed after having a snack or drink that leaves sugars on the teeth. According to the CDC, 52% of children ages 6-8 have at least one cavity in their primary teeth. 
Starting your baby off right with brushing their teeth in the morning and before they go to bed, and keeping regular dental appointments, will prevent your baby from developing cavities at such a young age. 
A Pediatric Dentist With a Parent and Patient

Preparing for the Baby First Dental Visit

After you make your baby’s first dental appointment, now is the time to prepare yourself and your baby for what to expect during the visit with the dentist. 
A few tips for getting ready for your baby’s first dental visit include:
  • Read books with your baby about cleaning teeth and dentist visits.
  • Play a happy song when it is time to brush their teeth.
  • Let your baby look inside your mouth with a flashlight, then ask if you can look inside your baby’s mouth to get them comfortable with someone shining a light inside.
  • Take your baby to meet the dentist before their first dental appointment. Many dentists will let you schedule a consultation so your baby can meet the staff and see the office before they have to open wide.
  • Talk positively about the dentist and be excited when it's time to go to the appointment. Smiling when talking about the dentist will send the right message to your baby that the dentist will help keep their mouth healthy.

Choosing a pediatric dentist or a general dentist who has an excellent rapport with children will help set your baby up for a positive experience at their first appointment. 

If you are anxious about your child’s first appointment, call the dental office to ask how certain situations are handled with their youngest patients. It may be comforting to know you will stay with your baby throughout the appointment. Your dentist only wants to take a quick look inside. If your baby refuses to let the dentist peek inside their mouth, do not worry. Your dentist will work to gain your child’s trust over time.

What to Expect at Your Baby's First Dental Visit

The goals of your baby’s first dental appointment are to ensure you maintain good oral hygiene and to get your baby comfortable in the dentist’s chair. 
You have two jobs at your child’s first visit to the dentist: Your first job is to absorb the dentist's advice on properly cleaning your child’s teeth and keeping their mouth healthy. Secondly, you are there to comfort and support your baby so they know that going to the dentist is a positive experience. 
With these goals in mind, a few things you can expect at your child’s first appointment include:
  • Most of the initial appointment will involve you talking with the dentist about your child's oral health. You can expect questions like:
    • How often do you brush your child’s teeth?
    • What kind of toothpaste do you use?
    • What type of foods does your baby eat before naps or bedtime?
    • Does your baby suck their thumb or use a pacifier?
    • Does your baby go to bed with a bottle?
  • You can help encourage your baby to open their mouth for the dentist.
  • Some dentists may prefer that you hold your baby during the exam or that you stay in your child’s sight at all times.
  • The dentist will take a look inside your child’s mouth to make sure no tooth decay is developing. They may also check your child’s bite, jaw, and gums.
  • The first appointment shouldn’t be much longer than 30 minutes 
Baby's First Dental Visit

Maintaining Baby's Oral Health at Home

To get your baby ready for regular tooth brushing, wipe your baby’s gums with a soft, clean washcloth before bed, even before your baby begins cutting teeth. 

Once your baby erupts their first tooth, with a small soft toothbrush and a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, be sure to brush your child's teeth once in the morning and before bed. 

After your baby has a snack or drinks milk, give them a little water to help wash away the sugars that may stick to their teeth.
Once your child is old enough to spit out the toothpaste, around three years old, you can switch to a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. If your child shows interest in brushing their teeth, let them practice! But until they can do a thorough job, go back over their teeth to make sure every tooth is properly cleaned.

Signs of Dental Issues in Babies

Keeping your child’s oral health in top shape can be challenging, especially if you have more than one child. A few signs to look out for are:
  • White or brown spots on your child’s teeth
  • Bleeding gums
  • Inflamed or red gums
  • A loose tooth well before your child is five years old
  • chipped or cracked tooth
  • Sensitivity with drinking cold liquids or from sucking on a bottle or thumb
Call your dentist immediately if you notice any of these signs or if your child is in pain and often indicates their mouth is bothering them. You do not want your baby dealing with the throbbing pain of a toothache for a moment longer. Your child’s dentist will be able to quickly identify the problem and begin restoring your baby’s oral health.

Scheduled an Appointment

If you are looking for a qualified pediatric dentist or general dentist with years of experience with young patients, Smile Generation can connect you with a dentist in your community. Find the right dentist for your child and schedule an appointment today with our Find a Dentist tool. 

 

Find your trusted, local dentist today!

 
 

Sources

  • "Cavities." CDC, 25 Jan. 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/fast-facts/cavities/index.html
  • "Did You Know..." AAPD, 6 Oct. 2023, https://www.mychildrensteeth.org/globalassets/media/my-childrens-teeth/tips-for-parents-1.pdf

Smile Generation blog articles are reviewed by a licensed dental professional before publishing. However, we present this information for educational purposes only with the intent to promote readers’ understanding of oral health and oral healthcare treatment options and technology. We do not intend for our blog content to substitute for professional dental care and clinical advice, diagnosis, or treatment planning provided by a licensed dental professional. Smile Generation always recommends seeking the advice of a dentist, physician, or other licensed healthcare professional for a dental or medical condition or treatment. 

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