When we first become parents, dental visits are generally the furthest issue from our minds; after all, until teething begins, most of us don’t give a second thought to dental health. In truth, babies’ gums and jawbones are as important as their teeth, where oral health is concerned. From birth, you can begin practicing good oral hygiene with your child by gently wiping his or her gums with a soft, warm washcloth or using a finger toothbrush specifically designed for this purpose. Of course, the process becomes more involved moving forward.
Is My Child at Risk for Dental Problems?
Everyone is vulnerable to tooth decay regardless of age, gender, income, family history, and any other factors possibly coming into play. Certain foods and beverages are high in sugar and acid, which can lead to bacteria growth that can destroy the enamel of the teeth. Milk and baby formula happens to be high in sugar, while fruit juices have high levels of acidity as well as sugar. Both can contribute to tooth decay. Though brushing twice daily at home eliminates a great deal of the bacteria and plaque buildup resulting from the natural digestive process, professional cleanings and checkups are crucial.
When Should I Expect to See My Baby’s Teeth Come in?
At birth, babies typically have 20 primary teeth already formed inside their gums. Little ones’ two front bottom teeth usually appear when they’re around six to eight months old. Those front upper teeth will follow shortly after that by the age of 10 months. By the period of 18 months, most of your child’s baby teeth should be visible. These teeth tend to show up in pairs, and, as soon as they begin to erupt through the gums, they’re susceptible to tooth decay.
Is There Anything I Can Do at Home to Help Prevent Tooth Decay?
Brushing your child’s teeth at least twice daily, in the morning and before bedtime, is the simplest and most effective step you can take to help keep bacteria at bay. Sugary snacks should be kept to a minimum, and don’t allow your child to fall asleep in bed with a bottle or sippy cup. Occasional treats are fun and completely acceptable, but be sure to help your child develop healthy eating habits.
When Should My Child First Visit the Dentist?
Your child’s first visit to the dentist should take place between the time the first tooth makes its appearance, and his or her first birthday. Scheduling dental appointments early on is beneficial for a couple of primary reasons. From a dentist’s standpoint, this paves the way for optimum oral health from the very beginning. Your child’s dentist can check for early signs of tooth decay as well as ensure no bite or jaw alignment issues are present. At the same time, it helps get your child accustomed to dental visits before horror stories from friends, and well-meaning adult family members have a chance to negatively influence his or her idea of what happens at the dentist’s office.
What Happens During the First Visit?
You may call us or contact us online to schedule your child’s first appointment. This first visit with us will be a short and simple one. Once you arrive, you’ll need to fill out some simple paperwork so we can register your child in our system. If your little one seems nervous or afraid, you may need to sit in the exam chair and hold him or her on your lap. Otherwise, we may ask you to wait in the reception area so our dentist can spend one-on-one time with your child. From there, we’ll:
- Carefully check the teeth and gums looking for signs of decay or bite problems
- Discuss our findings with you
- Talk about the potential adverse effects of thumb sucking, pacifiers and bottles from this point forward
- Ensure your child is receiving adequate amounts of fluoride at home through public water systems, bottled water with added fluoride and toothpaste
- Teach you and your child about positive at-home oral hygiene practices
We’ll also talk with you about developing a schedule for regular visits. In most cases, visiting our office once every six months is recommended, but if we find any problems in need of attention, we may suggest more frequent care. As your child gets older, exams will be a bit more in-depth.
What Should I do Before the First Visit?
Preparation is an essential step in easing your child’s mind before his first trip to the dentist. Explain where you’ll be going beforehand and talk about how the dentist will check your child’s teeth and “take pictures” of the inside of his or her mouth. You may want to read books together about children’s first dental visits. Talk about the experience with excitement and enthusiasm in your voice rather than seriousness or foreboding. We welcome you to bring your child to our office a few days before the appointment, so he or she can look around and become acquainted with the environment ahead of time.
Here are some “First Visit” tips:
- Take your child for a “preview” of the office.
- Read books with them about going to the dentist.
- Review with them what the dentist will be doing at the time of the first visit.
- Speak positively about your own dental experiences.
Contact us for an Appointment, and Let us be a Part of Your Child’s Continued Oral Health Success
Though permanent ones will eventually replace your child’s baby teeth, those first teeth are essential for chewing, biting, and speaking correctly. They also help ensure permanent teeth grow in more evenly. Pave the way for a lifetime of good oral hygiene and health by starting your child’s dental visits early, contact the Washington Center for Cosmetic & Family Dentistry at 202-363-2500.