Oral health is a lifelong journey and essential to your baby’s overall health.

What should first-time parents know?

Kids do not come with manuals!

This blog is a guide to help you embark on a new adventure called parenthood with the ups and downs in oral care you might face along the way. 

You are beginning a new chapter in your lives. You need to start thinking about caring for your baby’s teeth before their first tooth erupts. 

It’s time to create an action plan.

Dentists and Pediatricians both agree promoting good oral hygiene is important and should start well before the first tooth comes in.

You can start by developing a routine.

Your baby should become accustomed to having their gums massaged and cleaned with a washcloth or soft brush. You can plan it either before or after your baby’s bath; whenever you brush your teeth, or it’s whatever is easiest for you to establish a routine both you and your baby can embrace. Over time your child will mimic your routine, and it is something you can experience together. 

 Twice a day is recommended when you wake in the morning and before you go to bed at night.

Infants should see a dental professional as soon as their first tooth erupts or at least by their 1st birthday.

Tooth decay can happen as soon as the first baby tooth erupts from the gum, and why it is important parents take their children to see a dental professional as soon as the parent sees a tooth coming in.

Dental professionals can provide parents with tips and tricks to prevent their children from developing decay. They can show you how to brush, when to use fluoride toothpaste, what food will help keep their teeth healthy, and more.

 Fluoride is an important part of protecting teeth. But it is not for everyone!

 Dental professionals can offer alternatives to fluoride to help prevent decay and establish good dental habits.

Tooth development and oral care can affect a child’s sleep, breathing, growth, behavior, and speech, which can impact a child’s self-esteem and ability to learn.

 Sugar in food, milk, and formula creates a biofilm – removing the biofilm is important to promote good oral hygiene and prevent cavities.

 Your child’s first tooth is an important milestone.

Providing parents and caregivers guidance on proper oral health care from the very beginning establishes a road to success for a healthy smile and a healthy life.

Let your child experiment with the brush. Then you brush with them or for them.

Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle to massage along the gumline and remove biofilm and plaque.

Move in a circular motion, always in the same spot to establish a routine—outer surfaces, inner surfaces top, and bottom, along the gums and the tongue.

Your child will not have the manual dexterity or coordination to do this on their own until they are much older. Children usually miss the outside of the upper teeth and the inside of the lower teeth.

When should your child first see a dentist? You can take your child at a younger age, but experts recommend taking them within 6 months of the first tooth coming in (erupting), or by about 12 months at the latest.

At this time, the dentist can give you information on:

  • Baby bottle tooth decay
  • Infant feeding practices
  • Mouth cleaning
  • Teething
  • Pacifier habits
  • Finger-sucking habits

Prepare your child:

You know your child and what time of the day may be best for them. If possible, schedule morning appointments so young children are alert and fresh.

Prepare your child for the visit by giving them a general idea of what to expect. Explain why it is important to go to the dentist. Build excitement and understanding. I have a box that has everything in it we used at a visit. It comes with videos so your child can see how it is used on the appointment day. Let your child hold it, see it and touch it, so they are prepared in advance in the comfort of their own home. See – touch- feel role play. 

Prepare yourself:

Discuss your questions and concerns with the dentist. Ask if the dentist is good with kids if you have never been there before. Not all Dentists love kids. Remember that your feeling toward dental visits can be quite different from your child’s. Be honest with your view of the dentist. If you have dental anxieties, be careful not to relate those fears or dislikes to your child. Children can pick up their parents’ anxieties and become anxious themselves. Parents need moral support by staying calm while in the dental exam room. It may be better you wait in ht awaiting room. It may be better for small children to sit on your lap for the first visit. 

Prepare the dentist:

Give the dentist your child’s complete health history at the first visit. For a restoration visit, such as getting a cavity filled, tell the dentist if your child tends to be stubborn, defiant, anxious, or fearful in other situations.

Watch how your child reacts. Everyone has a bad day, including our children. Many parents can guess how their child will respond and should tell the dentist. Certain behaviors may be linked to your child’s age:

  • Ten to Twentyfour months – Some securely attached children may get upset when taken from their parents for an exam.
  • Two to Three years –  A securely attached child may be able to cope with a brief separation from parents. In a 2-year-old, “no” may be a common response.
  • Three-year-olds may not be OK being apart from a parent when having a dental procedure such as getting a cavity filled. Most 3-year-olds are not socially mature enough to separate from their parents.
  • Four years. Most children should sit in another room from parents for exams and treatment procedures.

The first visit:

Your child’s first dental visit is to help your child feel comfortable with the dentist. The first dental visit is recommended by 12 months of age or within six months of the first tooth coming in. The first visit often lasts 30 to 45 minutes. Depending on your child’s age, the visit may include a full exam of the teeth, jaws, bite, gums, and oral tissues to check growth and development. If needed, your child may also have a gentle cleaning. This includes polishing teeth and removing any plaque, tartar, and stains. The dentist may show you and your child proper home cleaning such as flossing and advise you on fluoride. Baby teeth fall out, so X-rays are usually not done. But your child’s dentist may recommend X-rays to diagnose decay, depending on your child’s age. X-rays are also used to see if the root of a jammed baby tooth may be affecting an adult tooth. In general, it is best that young children not have dental X-rays unless needed. If your child is not feeling it try another day or a different dentist. You will know what the right design will be at the time. Please don’t force it. 

The second visit:

Just like adults, children should see the dentist every six months. Some dentists may schedule visits more often, such as every three months. Usually, if there are problems or the first visit was a no-go. This can build comfort and confidence in the child. More frequent visits can also help keep an eye on a development problem. I saw one bot every week in the waiting room until he was ready to come back to a room. 

Protect your children’s teeth at home

Here are some tips to protect your children’s teeth:

  • Before teeth come in, clean gums with a clean, damp cloth.
  • Start brushing with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and a very small amount of toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) when your child’s first tooth appears. Use a pea-sized dab of fluoridated toothpaste after three years of age. This is when the child is old enough to spit out the toothpaste after brushing.
  • Prevent baby bottle tooth decay. Don’t give children a bottle of milk, juice, or sweetened liquid at bedtime or when put down to nap.
  • Limit the time your child has a bottle. Your child should empty a bottle in 5 to 6 minutes or less.
  • Please help your child brush their teeth until age seven or eight. Have the child watch you brush and follow the same brushing pattern to reduce missed spots.
  • Limit foods and treats that increase tooth decay. This includes hard or sticky candies, fruit leather, sweetened drinks, and juice. Offer fruit rather than juice. Juice exposes the teeth to sugar. The fiber in fruit tends to scrape the teeth clean.
  • Are they mouth breathing? What is the pH of their mouth? You can do things at home before a visit to the dentist.

Knowing what you want as a parent before you pick a dentist and make the first appointment will be a great way to ensure the first visit is a success. What are your expectations? Just a quick Check? A teeth cleaning? X-rays? It will depend on your child’s age and if there are any issues or not.