When you’re a first-time parent, you’re likely to have a lot of questions about your baby’s health. Many parents aren’t sure when to take their baby to the dentist, how to care for their baby’s teeth and oral health, or how to handle dental problems when they arise. We’ve gathered some of the most frequently asked questions from parents about how to tackle their baby’s dental health.
When Do I Take my Baby to the Dentist?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that you take your child to their first dental checkup by their first birthday, or within 6 months after their first tooth appears. Essentially, if you’ve got teeth, you need a dentist.
Your pediatric dentist will help keep your baby’s teeth and mouth healthy as they grow. Even though baby teeth are temporary, it’s important that they’re taken care of; baby teeth create pathways for permanent teeth, and decayed baby teeth can also weaken the gums surrounding them. You can also ask your pediatric dentist for advice on weaning, thumb sucking, and your baby’s diet.
How Can I Care for my Baby’s Teeth at Home?
During your first dental checkup with your baby, your dentist will recommend practices to care for an infant’s mouth between checkups. Most dentists recommend an infant-style toothbrush with soft bristles, or a cloth and warm water if your baby’s gums are sensitive. Using a small amount of fluoride toothpaste can help safely strengthen your baby’s teeth, and flossing around teeth – even those not surrounded by other teeth – will prevent plaque buildup and keep the gums strong.
How Can I Protect my Child’s Teeth?
Making sure your child has a balanced diet is essential to keeping their teeth clean. Even when breastfeeding, try to limit behaviors like nursing to sleep, and as your child grows, maintain a balanced diet that limits sugar. Talk to your dentist about applying sealants to your child’s teeth, which can prevent decay and cavities for years at a time.
How Do I Choose a Dentist for my Child?
Using a quick online search, you can find a pediatric or family dentist in your area. A pediatric dentist has special certification and only works with children, whereas a family dentist will likely have special training and works with families and children throughout their adolescence. All certified pediatric dentists have undergone the same schooling requirements, so you can be confident that your dentist has the training they require to care for you and your child.
Once you’ve narrowed your search to dentists in your area who will accept your dental insurance, schedule consultations with your top choices. Most pediatric dentists will agree to meet you and your child for an initial checkup, during which time you can determine whether the dentist will fulfill your needs. Go with your gut, especially if your baby seems more comfortable with a particular dentist – if your child trusts their dentist, visits will be less stressful, and your child will be more willing to listen to the dentist’s advice as they get older and take control of their own oral hygiene.