INFANT DENTAL CARE
Before your baby’s first tooth erupts, dental care is very easy! You only need to wipe their gums after feeding with a clean, damp cloth, or gently brush their gums with a soft bristled toothbrush. This prevents the natural sugars in breastmilk and formula from building up in your child’s mouth.
Once that first tooth comes in, they should come see a pediatric dentist. The first teeth to come in are usually the two top and bottom front teeth, and they typically make an appearance between 6 and 12 months. Toothbrushing at home should start once that first tooth comes in - a gentle brushing twice a day, with a tiny amount of toothpaste - about the same size as a grain of rice. Most baby teeth are fully in by age 3, and your child’s permanent teeth will start erupting around age 6.
Once your child’s first tooth comes in, it’s time for them to see a pediatric dentist! Starting dental visits at a young age gives parents an opportunity to get tips on keeping baby’s mouth healthy and clean as soon as possible, and get expert advice to avoid tooth decay as your child grows. As baby teeth grow, they provide structure to help your child learn to speak and chew correctly, as well as create a path for strong adult teeth to grow and develop underneath them.
The best way to keep your child’s mouth healthy is with regular dental checkups, and the best way to establish a comfortable and welcoming dental home for your child is to bring them in before any problems occur - no child is happy to meet the dentist for the first time after they have just bumped their teeth on the front steps.
Your child’s first visit will start with a discussion of your child’s medical history, including any allergies or food aversions that might impact their snacking habits or tooth development. Your child’s hygienist will give them a gentle tooth cleaning with flavored fluoride treatment to prevent decay, and introduce them to the dentist, who will examine their teeth, mouth, and jaw for any problem spots.
Everything is introduced to your child gently and confidently, using the “tell-show-do” method, where we let them see and hear the dental instruments which have fun, child-friendly names - Mr. Thirsty and Mr. Whistle - before trying them on their hand, and then their mouth. If x-rays are needed, we will escort your child to our x-ray room to take them as needed and review any findings with you. After the exam, you’ll discuss your home care routine with the dentist, and have the opportunity to ask any questions about your child’s development, diet, habits, or anything else that comes to mind. We want to be a resource for you just as much as for your child!
You can help your child’s first visit be a success in a few easy ways! First, and most importantly, is that children mirror their parents - if you are nervous about the dentist, they will be nervous about the dentist. Try to be confident and easygoing about your child’s visit, and encourage them at home by reading books or watching videos about going to the dentist. Our team uses exclusively warm, child-friendly vocabulary at their visits - you can tell your child their teeth will be counted and cleaned, they will be shown how to brush their teeth, and we may take a picture. Even if your child is coming in for restorative work, we will explain what will happen at their visit to make it approachable and comfortable, and it is important that you avoid using any fear-inducing words like drill, pull, needle, or hurt.
As pediatric specialists, our team is experienced in working with children who have varying care needs. We are comfortable and confident treating children with physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, hearing loss, vision impairment, complicated medical needs, and those on the autism spectrum. When you schedule your child’s first visit, please communicate with our administrative staff what your child’s needs are, so that we can be best prepared to accommodate them.
In order to better prepare your child for their first office visit, it is important to show them what to expect when they go to the dentist. There are lots of books at your local library about visiting the dentist for the first time, as well as lots of great videos online that you can watch at home. Dr. Lisa and our whole team have created a step-by-step book with pictures, showing each step of a dental visit at our office. This is another great resource for you to use to help familiarize your child with what to expect at their first visit. Please click the link to access our digital book.
To make the visit comfortable for your child, please bring any toys or tools you feel may help your child during their visit, for example; weighted blankets, favorite toothpaste, phone/tablet, or headphones or noise canceling headphones. Some children attend visits with a therapist or communication board as well. If your child benefits from at-home practice ahead of time, some great things to practice are opening their mouth wide, counting each tooth, and brushing their teeth with an electric toothbrush.
When you schedule your child’s first visit, please communicate with our administrative staff what your child’s needs are, so that we can be best prepared to accommodate them. We love to know all details regarding your child’s needs, including: your child’s level of communication, oral sensitivity, sound sensitivity, flavor sensitivity, or light sensitivity. If your child has difficulty at the pediatrician’s office, please alert our staff. If this is your child’s first dental visit, please let us know how well you feel your child will be able to sit in the dental chair. If this is not your child’s first visit, please let us know any past difficulties they have had, so that we can best prepare for your visit and make the experience as comfortable as we can for your family.