Sharing our experience with baby’s first dental visit and the things I learned: when to visit the dentist for the first time, how to prepare, how much it costs and a surprising tip for maintaining good oral hygiene.
There are so many firsts you look forward to with a new baby: first food, first time walking, first word, first holiday. There are also just as many firsts that you don’t even think about until you need to…like baby’s first dental visit.
Today I want to share what I learned from baby’s first dental visit. I hope this helps parents who might be unsure about taking their baby to a dentist. Every family will have a different experience. My hope is by sharing what I learned you might have a better idea of what to expect.
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When Does Baby Need to Visit a Dentist?
According to Canadian Dental Association (CDA), a baby’ first dental visit should be within six months of their first tooth OR by one year of age. This may seem young, but the first visit is more about providing information to parents about proper dental care.
After baby’s first visit, they should visit the dentist every six months for a check-up. I’ve found it helpful to try and schedule my dental visit in the same month as Bibi. For us, scheduling all of our dentist appointments in the same month helps us ensure we are all getting the care we need.
Our dental insurance covered Bibi’s visit under preventative health. Most dental insurance companies cover these checkups at an early age. It’s helpful to verify with your insurance before scheduling an appointment.
Why Do Babies Need to See the Dentist?
Once your baby has a tooth they are at risk for tooth decay. It may seem excessive to go to all of the trouble of a dental check-up with a baby. However, there are many important reasons that babies should begin the healthy habit of visiting the dentist early on including:
- It helps baby become comfortable and familiar with the dentist before stranger anxiety peaks somewhere between 12-15 months of age.
- You can find out if you are doing an adequate job of cleaning baby’s teeth before cavities begin
- Parents can learn new strategies for proper brushing and flossing
- The dentist can spot tooth decay problems and fix them early.
- Your child learns that the dentist is a helpful part of their “village.”
How to Help Baby Maintain Good Oral Hygeine
I found this information from Healthlink BC very useful. Good oral hygiene practices for your baby include:
- Clean and check your baby’s mouth and teeth each day. This is easier when you make it part of your routine. For example, when you get them dressed in the morning and after their bath each night. Our dentist recommended cleaning after each time Bibi eats or drinks milk. To check baby’s mouth, lift up their lips. Check the teeth and the gumline for any bumps or white or brown spots.
- Use a thin wet washcloth or baby toothbrush to wipe down baby’s gums when your baby doesn’t have any teeth. (Before my baby had teeth, she enjoyed using this finger toothbrush because the bristles were short and soft, it had a massaging effect on the gums.)
- Once teeth have erupted, start using a smear (rice-sized amount) of fluoride toothpaste on a toothbrush to clean the teeth. When your child reaches the age of 3 they will need a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
- Offer water to your baby between feedings. It is tempting to give baby milk or juice. However, water is a much better choice for teeth and overall health.
- Eliminate the bottle or sippy at bedtime. Milk will pool in the baby’s mouth overnight. This can cause “bottle rot.” The earlier you stop the habit of giving them a nighttime bottle or sippy of milk the better.
Avoid Sharing Saliva with Baby
This surprising last tip for preventing cavities is from American Dental Association: “Try not to share saliva with the baby through common use of feeding spoons or licking pacifiers.” Mutans streptococcus, a bacteria found in saliva that causes tooth decay can affect baby’s oral health if passed onto baby through shared food or feeding tools.
How to Prepare for Baby’s First Dental Visit
First, ask friends or look through online reviews to get recommendations for a local pediatric dentist. You can go to a non-pediatric dentist. But dentists specializing in kids have more kid-friendly offices and patient staff that are used to working with children. We chose a pediatric dental practice and I asked them how their fee structures differed from a regular dentist. This may not be the case in your region but I was told that the fees at their particular pediatric dental practice were about 15-20% more than a regular dentist.
Next, think about any questions you might have for the dentist regarding your baby’s teeth. Don’t feel silly asking questions, especially if this is your first child. We are all learning as we go along. A good dentist will appreciate the opportunity to help you learn how to take care of your baby’s teeth.
We tried to prepare Bibi by talking about the dentist for several days leading up to the visit. You can find books like this that will introduce the concept of a dentist to your baby. We also spoke about how the dentist would “count” her teeth. We even practiced lying down and looking at each other’s teeth like a dentist. This way she knew a little bit about what to expect.
Don’t feel embarrassed if, even after prepping baby, they are nervous or cry at the dentist. Remember that children often feed into our emotions. It is important to remain calm and encouraging even if the first visit doesn’t go well. You don’t want the dentist to be a stressful experience. Try to stay upbeat and remind your child that you can try again later.
What Happens at Baby’s First Dental Visit
Bibi’s first dental visit went much better than expected. We were checked into the office by a receptionist who offered me a face mask (I put on my own). Bibi didn’t have to wear a mask. We then met with a dental hygienist who asked us questions about Bibi’s oral health and our dental care routine. She was pleased that we brush Bibi’s teeth several times a day (before naps and bedtime). We use a grain-sized amount of natural non-fluoride toothpaste and a baby toothbrush. While this is okay, they recommended we use fluoride toothpaste at bedtime. Fluoride makes teeth stronger and more resistant to acid.
The hygienist did a demonstration on how to clean baby’s teeth. This was so helpful! It has been fairly easy for me to brush Bibi’s bottom teeth. The upper teeth have been much harder for me to reach and brush. The hygienist recommended that I lay Bibi across my lap on her back with her head slightly tilted back. This makes it harder for her to resist brushing and easier for me to see in her mouth.
The hygienist also taught us how to floss with baby floss sticks. Prior to this visit we hadn’t been flossing. However, we need to because Bibi’s teeth are growing in and the gaps are closing up. Cavities often start in these tight spaces where toothbrushes don’t reach.
Next, we met with the dentist. She reviewed Bibi’s file, and did a quick check of her teeth for cavities and oral health. She also did a quick cleaning which consisted of wiping her teeth off with gauze and applying a fluoride treatment.
The dentist also gave us time to ask questions, which was so helpful. I was worried that Bibi’s bottle use might be causing problems with the development and positioning of her teeth. In Bibi’s case, the dentist said her teeth are okay right now. She did recommend, however, that we try to eliminate use of her bottle as soon as possible.
She suggested two methods: 1) Stopping the bottle cold turkey or 2) Making the bottle less desirable. Her recommendation was to gradually dilute the milk in her evening bottle with more and more water. She also suggested cutting the tips of the bottle off so they become more fast flowing. Since Bibi uses her bottle for comfort, the fast flow would be very unappealing. It sounded very messy so we chose to go a different route for weaning Bibi off of her bottle. I’m planning to write all about it in an upcoming post.
At the end of her dental visit, Bibi was awarded with her first dentist gift – a little pink bear. I got so emotional seeing my little baby looking and acting more and more like a little kid. We also received a new baby toothbrush with floss and toothpaste samples. The visit was covered by our insurance but would normally cost around $110. We feel so fortunate to have full dental coverage so we could stay on top of Bibi’s oral health.
I hope that hearing about our experience at Bibi’s first dental visit is helpful. Knowing what to expect and how to prepare helps parents and baby. I was grateful to get my questions answered by the dental office staff and learn tips about how to better take care of Bibi’s teeth.