Lesson 74: You probably need to take your baby to his first dental appointment earlier than you think

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child is seen by his dentist when his first tooth arrives, or by his first birthday at the latest. We originally scheduled J’s first dentist appointment for the same week he turned a year old, but then realized we didn’t yet have him on our insurance. We ended up not taking him to the dentist until he was 17 months old, and that still felt really early to us! However, I can certainly see the benefit of getting him used to seeing a dentist at an early age. And who am I to argue with the professionals?

Still, it was torture. It did not go over well. At all.

And for all my friends who told me how awful I was for torturing my baby with proper dental healthcare, here’s my middle finger.

Just a few more recommendations quoted directly from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry:

  • Primary, or “baby,” teeth are important for many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth can follow when they are ready to erupt.
  • Thumb and pacifier sucking habits will generally only become a problem if they go on for a very long period of time. Most children stop these habits on their own, but if they are still sucking their thumbs or fingers past the age of three, a mouth appliance may be recommended by your pediatric dentist
  • Avoid nursing children to sleep or putting anything other than water in their bed-time bottle.
  • A check-up every six months is recommended in order prevent cavities and other dental problems. However, your pediatric dentist can tell you when and how often your child should visit based on their personal oral health.
  • Starting at birth, clean your child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water. As soon as the teeth begin to appear, start brushing twice daily using fluoridated toothpaste and a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush. Use a “smear” of toothpaste to brush the teeth of a child less than 2 years of age. For the 2-5 year old, dispense a “pea-size” amount of toothpaste and perform or assist your child’s toothbrushing. Remember that young children do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively. Children should spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing. (Personal note: It’s our personal choice to avoid fluoridated toothpaste until our child can spit properly.)

For an excellent resource of brochures regarding pediatric dentistry, access the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s health care provider brochures here.

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