What To Expect From Baby's First Trip to the Dentist

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Baby and giant tooth
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A baby's first year is full of firsts. These firsts or milestones include such delightful things as baby's first smile and first laugh. Many milestones happen naturally through the course of your child's development, but there is one milestone in particular that you need to plan for because baby can't do it without you. That milestone is baby's first visit to the dentist. We have yet to meet a baby who can set up their own dental appointments, so it's up to us grown folks to do it for them. If you think that getting your baby in to see a dentist by their first birthday isn't important, then think again.

Both the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association recommend scheduling a baby’s first dental exam after they get their first tooth or by their first birthday. That means that if your baby gets their first tooth by 6 months, then you should schedule a dental visit soon thereafter. But even if your baby doesn't have any teeth, you should still schedule a dental exam no later than their first birthday.

That first visit will help your child become familiar with their dentist and the dentist's office in a nonthreatening way. It will also allow the dentist to get to know your child, check for any potential issues, and share tips on the best way to brush and how to floss. Oh, and not for nothing, staying on top of your child's dental care from the very beginning can save you a lot of money in the long run because a dentist can catch issues early and help prevent them from leading to expensive dental procedures.

OK, hopefully, we've convinced you of the importance of scheduling your baby's first trip to the dentist before their first birthday. Now, let us demystify the process by letting you know what you can expect.

  • What's the difference between a dentist and a pediatric dentist?

    Child at pediatric dentist
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    When making your baby's appointment, you might be wondering whether to schedule it with a pediatric dentist or a regular dentist. To help you make that decision, let us explain the difference. A pediatric dentist has all of the training that a regular dentist has plus two more years of training that focuses on the special needs of treating children's teeth. Either type of dentist is capable of treating a child, but a pediatric dentist probably has a staff and office that is more geared toward treating children. They probably offer better kid-friendly goodie bags too.

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  • What's the best time of the day to schedule the appointment?

    Baby and clock
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    You already know that you should schedule the first dental exam by baby's first birthday, but beyond that what time should you schedule it? You want to pick a time of the day when your baby is well-rested. If your baby is on a regular nap schedule, be sure to make an appointment during a time that doesn't interfere with that. A rested baby will have a much better time and be an easier patient than a cranky baby who is tired. We all do better when we're rested.

  • What will happen at your baby's first dental exam?

    Baby at dental exam
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    It's not going to be a long visit. A dentist or dental hygienist will check your child's teeth, gums, bite, and look for any possible issues. They might clean any existing teeth by gently rubbing them with a toothbrush or cloth. They will check to see if there is a need for fluoride or not. They'll also give you tips on how to care for your child's oral health. This is also a great opportunity for you to ask any questions that you might have.

  • Once the first visit is over, it's not over.

    Dentist's appointment
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    That first visit is meant to set your child up for a lifelong commitment to preventative oral care. That means that before you leave, you should discuss and schedule your child's next appointment. Usually, dental appointments are scheduled every six months, but your child's dentist may want to schedule them differently depending on your child's needs.

  • The first dental exam can lead to a lifetime of happy visits. 

    Happy child at dentist
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    Think of this first dental visit as a gift that you are giving your child because it is. You are helping them to think of visiting the dentist as something that isn't scary at all. Believe it or not, if you find a dentist and an office that your child loves, they'll actually look forward to their regular dental visits.

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