Amongst the numerous things moms get into arguments over, there's one argument that never fails to baffle me: When to take your baby to their first dental appointment.
It doesn't help that many dentists still cling to very outdated ideas, like a cavity in a baby tooth isn't a big deal or that kids don't need to go until they're 2 or 3. Some dentists even just "count teeth" at first appointments, which also is not recommended, nor really helpful.
The fact is, babies need to see the dentist by their first birthday, or within 6 months of getting their first tooth, whichever comes first.
You're supposed to get a cleaning every 6 months, right? Wait until your child is 3 to take them to the dentist misses a 1 year, 18 month, 2 year and 2-1/2 year cleaning -- that's FOUR cleanings your child should have had, that they weren't taken to. Would you take your 4-year-old to the dentist, then not take them again until they were 6-1/2? Not likely. That's a lot of time for problems to develop and go unseen!
When your child sees a pediatric dentist (one trained in dealing with babies, toddlers, and children), they will not only just "look" at teeth, but assess any current or potential problems, and will show you where you're not quite brushing correctly. Most parents don't brush baby teeth very well at all. Don't use a finger brush once there are teeth -- don't believe me? Try it on your own teeth. Also, most people brush way too hard, even when you're trying to be gentle. Dentists can teach you tricks to get in your baby's mouth at good angles, and show you were you're missing and how to do a better job -- you don't want to be doing a bad job or missing the same places for three years, do you?
Parents also believe a healthy diet and bi-daily tooth brushing is enough -- and it turns out that is wrong. For instance, guess which is better for your kid's teeth ... M&Ms or Goldfish crackers? If you said Goldfish, you're wrong again. The sugars in M&Ms rinse away with saliva, but the starches from the crackers sticks in teeth and breaks down into sugars that are just as damaging to the teeth as sticky candy. Also, there's a lot more than goes into dental health, such as prematurity, strength and evenness of enamel, pH balance of saliva, antibiotic use and even amount of saliva produced. Even the most "perfect parents" can have kids develop cavities. Yes, laziness is often a leading reason, but it's not the only one by far.
It can be hard to coax a baby into a dentist's chair, but it's more than worth it. Dentists who are used to babies will have techniques to help it go smoothly, such as using a "knee-to-knee" position where your baby sits on your lap, straddling you, then leans back to lie their head into the hygienist's lap. They also have lots of fun things to help put kids at ease. Never take your child to a pediatric dentist who won't allow you to stay with your child during cleanings, though, even if they swear it's to keep kids calm.
If you're still not convinced, consider this: two appointments a year, two hours out of your entire year can help prevent speech problems, need for braces, jaw problems, future surgery, needed anesthesia, future tooth spacing problems and more. It may seem like a waste of time, but it's a lot better than the alternatives.
Did you take your baby to the dentist within the recommended timeframe? Will you?