Your Child’s First Dental Visit
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We Don't Need to Tell You Your Child Is Special!
Before reading on, a quick disclaimer: Every child is unique and develops at their own pace. The numbers and ages we use on this page are based on averages, and should give you a general sense of when to expect certain procedures to happen at that dentist — but, of course, we will individualize your child’s procedures to their needs and developmental readiness. Procedures and techniques used during your child’s visit can also vary from the ones listed later on this page depending on your kiddo’s comfort level with the dental environment.
If you have specific questions about your child’s development or care, don’t hesitate to reach out by calling (206) 486-7260, or discuss your concerns with Dr. Posthuma during your child’s next visit.
Baby's First Dental Visit
Dr. Posthuma specializes in seeing babies and very young children. We know firsthand that your baby’s first dental visit can be a cause for some anxiety — for you and for them! We also know that you have lots of questions; you might be wondering what kind of dentist is right for your child’s first dental visit, or how old your little one needs to be to have their first dental visit. Maybe you just don’t know what to expect at all. Dr. Megan Posthuma, DDS, at The Tooth Ferry Pediatric Dentistry strives to give you and your young child the best first dental experience possible. Read on to learn more about your child’s first dental visit, and contact us if you have any questions.
When to Take Your Baby to the Dentist
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend bringing your baby to the dentist 6 months after you spot their first tooth. This is usually around your child’s first birthday, but variance from that benchmark is completely normal — sometimes by a whole year. What is done at the first visit will depend on your kiddo’s comfort level; especially for more apprehensive children, our goal is to start slowly, introducing them to new procedures as they develop and become more at ease in the dental environment.
Seeing your child from the time of their first birthday is important because it allows us to evaluate their oral hygiene practices and prevent decay before it even begins. Exposure to the dentist at an early age is also critical; when a baby visits the dentist before they experience tooth pain, it creates a positive association with oral hygiene and examinations, promoting a lifetime of great tooth care!
After their first visit, we recommend most children see us every 6 months. Not only will this help to keep their teeth healthy, but it will also allow frequent assessment of their growth and development in the orofacial region, enabling Dr. Posthuma to help anticipate if and when a visit to the orthodontist might be necessary.
Why See A Pediatric Dentist Over A General Dentist?
Choosing a dentist for your child is as important as choosing their pediatrician, and you want one that specializes in pediatric care. Pediatric dentists like Dr. Posthuma have received advanced training in dentistry specific to children — usually 2–3 postdoctoral years in residency training. Put simply, pediatric dentists are the best-trained professionals for your baby or child’s dental care.
Not only that, but pediatric dental offices are specially designed to make your little one feel right at home. We only see children at The Tooth Ferry and it shows; our staff are highly experienced in seeing children and working at the pace of each individual child, our office is fun and welcoming for children, featuring books, toys, and video games to entertain your child and help them to feel at home. We want our patients to build familiarity with the dental environment, making routine visits fun and less stressful from the start!
What Can I Expect At My Baby’s First Dental Visit?
The doctor and dental assistant will work with you through several procedures (such as tooth cleaning, tooth and mouth examination, and fluoride varnish application), prioritizing your child’s comfort level above all else. It’s completely normal for your child to cry a little at their first visit, especially if they’re very young; babies and young children get overwhelmed by new people and places, and they communicate this emotion by crying. Luckily, Dr. Posthuma and her lead dental assistant, Carrie, encounter this often and will move quickly in order to minimize the parts of the visit that are causing anxiety and emphasize the parts of the visit that are fun.
At your baby’s first dental visit, the doctor will most likely use a knee-to-knee technique to examine your child’s teeth, gums, and oral soft tissues. As the name suggests, the knee-to-knee technique involves the parent touching knees with Dr. Posthuma to create a table to hold the child; we’ll then have your child lean their head back into the doctor’s lap for proper examination of their mouth. It’s important to note that they are never separated from you throughout the process, alleviating separation anxiety and giving you an up-close view of what’s going on.
During this examination, Dr. Posthuma will check the child’s teeth for decay and any developing orthodontic issues (typically caused by pacifier usage). After the exam, she can offer recommendations for non-nutritive sucking habits if needed and discuss oral hygiene and dietary/feeding practices with you.
Teeth Cleaning With Toothbrush
Next, we’ll clean your baby’s teeth with a toothbrush, evaluate their fluoride exposure, and make a recommendation for toothpaste with fluoride or without fluoride, depending on the individual needs of our child. Fluoride will only be applied if you are comfortable in doing so.
While cleaning, we’ll also get a good idea of any areas in your kiddo’s mouth that aren’t being cleaned properly based on plaque buildup; these areas are often places where teeth sit “tightly” up against each other, easily trapping food and proving difficult to reach with a toothbrush.
Review of Proper Dental Hygiene Practices
We’ll then demonstrate proper dental hygiene practices, including flossing if appropriate. We’ll also show you any areas we noticed during the cleaning that may require a little more attention while brushing at home. The doctor can also discuss strategies for brushing at home to ensure even the most fussy children keep their teeth clean and healthy.
For all of these processes, we make sure to go at your child’s pace and ease them into everything. We try to get the unpleasant parts done quickly while emphasizing the less-stressful parts — like picking a new toothbrush or toy!
What Should I Bring to My Baby’s First Dental Visit?
Most importantly, we’d love to see a big smile at your child’s first dental visit! Secondarily, a less fun request: we’d also like some paperwork.
Please bring your completed forms to your visit. Especially with young children, it’s very helpful to have paperwork filled out beforehand as they can take about 20 minutes to complete and, as we’re sure you know, children can get impatient.
Another idea to encourage a great first trip to the dentist? Read your child a book about the dentist to support positive associations before they even get to our office. You can find a few of our favorites here.
Our goal as pediatric dentists is to make your baby’s first dental visit stress-free, by providing a dental care experience that is professional, educational, and fun. We want to ensure that every child starts their lifelong dental journey with a smile!