Here at Emergency Dentist of Portland, we welcome patients of all ages and accommodate the unique needs of every patient! We know that infants and toddlers require a special approach to dental care, and that the very first visit can seem intimidating to both parent and child. Not to worry – ahead, we’ll walk you through all the whens, whys, hows and whats about your baby’s first dental appointment!
When and Why Should Babies Go to the Dentist?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that babies have their first dentist appointment by their first birthday or their first tooth – whichever comes first!
Why is dental care important for babies and toddlers?
Baby teeth are very important for a child’s early physical, social, and psychological development. They help your baby chew, speak and smile! From facial muscle development, digestion and nutrition, speech, social interactions, and even self-confidence, baby teeth are incredibly important for young children’s development.
Baby teeth are important placeholders for adult teeth and help guide them into their correct positions. Baby teeth that are lost too early often result in crooked and misaligned adult teeth.
If oral health and hygiene are neglected, baby teeth can develop cavities as soon as they erupt. Besides hindering development, tooth decay can result in abscess and infection, and potentially spread to other parts of the child’s mouth and body.
It is important to establish a dental home for children early on so that they are comfortable at a dentist’s office and free of dental anxiety.
Perhaps most importantly, establishing good and routine dental care from an early age helps ensure that children develop good oral hygiene and habits that will benefit them throughout their lives.
Tips for Preparing for Your Child’s First Dentist Visit
Read and play-act about going to the dentist - Reading picture books about visiting the dentist and playing dentist (“say ahh and open wide” and looking inside, pretending to give teeth a polish) go a long way towards fostering a positive and relaxed attitude about visiting the dentist for the first time.
Stay relaxed and positive - Children are incredibly perceptive, and if you stay cheerful and calm about their first dentist visit, they will likely mirror your attitude and feel that the dentist’s office is a safe place.
Bring comfort items like a favorite soft toy. Try to save snacks for after the dentist, but if you do bring some just remember to avoid messy foods that can coat the mouth and teeth, like cheese puffs or pudding.
Don’t schedule an appointment during naptime if possible. Try to pick a time your child is usually well rested and cooperative.
Come prepared with any questions or concerns you have, and take note of oral habits or developments like thumb sucking or teething. You may want to fill out a new patient form online prior to your appointment, to help cut down on time in the waiting room. Feel free to ask questions! Common questions include: when to expect baby’s teeth to come in, what are baby-teeth friendly foods, how to reduce thumb sucking habits, and how to alleviate teething distress.
What to Expect During Your Child’s First Dentist Visit
Your child’s first dentist appointment should be simple, quick and comfortable. We want their first experience at a dentist’s office to lay a positive foundation for all of their future dentist visits!
First, we will bring you and your child in from the waiting room to one of our comfortable exam rooms. We will discuss any questions or concerns you might have with your child’s oral health and development. Our dentist will quickly examine your child’s mouth and assess whether their gums, baby teeth (if any), and jaw are developing correctly. We will discuss the best at-home practices and treatments to consider in the future, what we anticipate for their future oral health and development, and schedule them for future appointments (typically every six months).
Your child may wiggle and fuss a bit during their appointment - don’t worry, we know that it’s completely normal and an entirely new experience for your little one. As your child grows and gets more acclimated with our dental office, we will be able to conduct more detailed exams of their mouth, and eventually perform x-rays, fluoride treatments and dental cleanings.
Setting a positive precedent for dentist visits at an early age goes a long way to creating lifelong, positive dental health habits. Now that you know what to expect for your child’s first dental appointment, we hope the idea of bringing your baby in for a dentist visit is less intimidating! Contact us to book your child’s first dental appointment today!
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