Your Child’s First Dental Visit

Your child’s first visit to the pediatric dentist is a vital step in dental health. The American Association of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that the first visit to the dentist happens at one year of age or within 6-months of the first tooth erupting, whichever comes first.

Visiting the pediatric dentist at this age can feel very early, even a little overwhelming. The main reason to come in at this young age is primarily for educational purposes. Frequently parents tell us,” I wish I had known sooner to bring my child to the dentist” or “I’m glad I know that now.” Nearly half of 5-year-olds have tooth decay - and most of this decay is avoidable.  Don’t worry if your child is older and you have not made that first visit to the dentist yet. As a mom of three, I understand that never-ending to-do list, making dental care for babies feel like a low priority. No worries, better late than never. We never judge or shame. We only uplift, encourage and educate.

Here at Twice Pediatric Dentistry, we ensure two critical things happen during this first visit:

1. Your child develops a comfortable relationship with the dental office staff and Pediatric Dentist.  Our office is specifically designed to welcome children of all ages, and avoid being over-stimulating to children.  Additionally, our staff, and most importantly the Pediatric Dentist, is passionate and trained in behavior management with children. The staff’s background ensures that the first visit is pleasant, a critical foundation to building a wonderful relationship with your Pediatric Dentist, their office, and staff. If you have any concerns about this first visit, or if you feel that your child might have a hard time, be assured that we provide a comfortable experience.  We answer all your concerns and questions, diagnose cavities and address other dental concerns. The key to success is that we work together with your family to accomplish a healthy relationship with the dental experience.

2. You, as a parent, and the patient learn about optimal oral health. This way you are confident in what you should and should not be doing, which translates into your child feeling more comfortable, more confident, and more participative in cavity prevention and which is a basis for life-long dental health. 

Your Child’s First Dental Visit

Your first visit is important and early so we are able to educate you on the following: 

1. When and how to start brushing

2. Frequency of dental visits and why

3. Cause and prevention of cavities

4. Breastfeeding

5. Juice intake 

6. Non-nutritive habits 

7. Gummy vitamins

8. Preventing dental trauma 

1. When and How to Start Brushing 

You can and should start brushing and cleaning your infant's gums even before they have teeth! Using a finger silicone brush or a soft cloth to wipe the gums of an infant decreases milk residue intraorally.  This also helps your infant become accustomed to having their mouth cleaned. As soon as they start to get front teeth, brush nightly with a finger silicone brush or let them use a toothbrush, like the banana brush. When they have molars, we suggest you use a regular infant soft bristle brush or the Frida double-sided brush. Other blogs discuss brushing in more detail. 

2. Frequency of Dental Visits and Why

Just like what is recommended for adults, we want to see your kiddos every six months for several reasons. Seeing children every six months helps them become familiar and comfortable with dental visits more quickly. Each visit becomes easier as the child realizes how much fun and how easy the visit is.. This frequency also allows us to watch for any new weak areas, detect cavities early, help with homecare, and offer suggestions to improve decay prevention. Equally as important, seeing a child every six months allows our Pediatric Dentists to monitor their growth, assess their development, and be vigilant for any areas that would benefit from early intervention. 

3. Cause and Prevention of Cavities Caused

Cavities are considered a multifactorial disease. This means that many components contribute to the cause of cavities. Yes, genetics do play a role in the risk for decay, but is not the cause of cavities. Quite simply, cavities are caused by a combination of a substrate (food, sugar, debris left on the teeth), a perfect (acidic) environment, and bacteria. This perfect storm is fueled by poor home care. Basically, anything other than water can contribute to cavities. Carbohydrates are a huge hidden cause of cavities. Kids need and love carbs. But carbs break down into sugars that, when left behind on the teeth, can easily lead to decay. The ultimate key is good nighttime brushing and flossing, which means parents need to help. Research shows that children do not clean their teeth well enough until the age of seven.  Do they really even do a good job then? We encourage parents to make it a routine to brush and floss kids’ teeth properly after the kids have completed their routine. This is not easy - I can tell you from personal experience as a mom. These habits reliably help prevent cavities in your kids. 

4. Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your child and also the toughest subject for me. As a mom, I know how hard these recommendations are. As a pediatric dentist, I know how important they are. When a child has teeth and is eating solid food, breastfeeding throughout the night after brushing their teeth is almost guaranteed to cause cavities. Breast milk contains sugar, which creates an environment where dental bacteria thrive and can cause decay. As a mom, I know how hard it is to wean feedings. My first recommendation is to brush their teeth at night before bed to ensure removal of gross debris from food and breastmilk throughout the day. Secondly, after breastfeeding your child to sleep or throughout the night, try to wipe off their teeth with a damp washcloth or wipe. This does not replace brushing but helps to decrease the milk residue left behind on teeth. Lastly, work on weaning the night feeds to prevent cavities. In a perfect world, brush after the last feed and then nothing to eat or drink except water, including breastmilk, until morning. Mommas, do not beat yourselves up. Do your best and we will figure it out together! 

5. Juice Intake

First and foremost, if you have not introduced juice and can avoid juice do so! We recommend to our patients to only give juice to your kids if the pediatrician recommends it for a medical reason. Besides being systemically unhealthy for kids, juice is one of the largest contributors to cavities in children. Once again, if your child already drinks juice, no judgment, so let’s talk about how we can change their juice habit. The AAPD recommends no juice prior to the age of one. From one to four years old, one-four ounce serving of juice per day. From four to six years old, four to six ounces of juice per day. Ideally, the juice is served with a meal and not watered down. Parents often tell us they give their children watered-down juice. Although this contains less sugar and is systemically better for them, they are still drinking “sugar” water so it does not decrease the cavity risk. We would rather them have one four-ounce glass of pure juice, one time a day with a meal than sip watered-down juice all day.  Sipping watered-down juice all day is like an adult sipping on soda all day. If a child sips this juice every thirty minutes, the mouth never gets a chance to recover, providing an acidic environment all day, leading to cavities. 

6. Non-Nutritive Habits which include Pacifier, Thumb/Finger Sucking, or Cloth Sucking (Refers to Loveys, Blankets, Stuffed Animals, Cloths)

 Non-nutritive habits are very helpful early on to soothe a child. These lifelines help us as parents from losing our minds. Parents commonly ask: when should my child drop the pacifier habit?. The AAPD recommends that a child stop non-nutritive habits by three years of age. This recommendation comes from research that shows most negative oral changes caused by a non-nutritive habit can correct on their own as the child grows if the habit is stopped early enough. One of the exceptions to this rule occurs when a child develops a crossbite, when the upper jaw narrows. Crossbites very rarely correct on their own. If we start to see the upper jaw narrowing or a crossbite starting to form, we may suggest breaking the habit sooner. For information regarding help with breaking non-nutritive habits, see our blog on this topic.

7. Gummy Vitamins

 Let's Take a moment to talk about gummy vitamins. This source of vitamins seems so innocent and random, but is so important. Gummy vitamins are made with sticky sugar so that kids want to take them. Giving gummy vitamins is just like giving your child a gummy bear or starburst every day, which can lead to cavities. If you have gummy vitamins at home, we suggest finishing what you have (don’t waste), but then switch to a chewable or liquid depending on what works best for you and your family. We do both chewable and liquid and our favorites are Hiya Vitamins and Mary Ruths. 

8. Dental Trauma

We are here for you and your little ones. 35% of toddlers experience primary tooth trauma. If your toddler falls or hits their baby teeth please contact us as soon as possible. Most of the time, we can assess what has happened to the teeth. Even though we do not usually provide a treatment at the time of the trauma, we need to manage the results over time. There are many different sequelae to dental trauma. During the first visit, the Pediatric Dentist will educate you on dental trauma: 1. Primary tooth trauma can cause an aesthetic or appearance defect in the permanent teeth. This defect often does not cause harm to the health of the tooth, but could cause a small white or yellow spot that is aesthetically repairable. 2. Watch out for discoloration of the tooth. The tooth may turn yellow, gray or black.  a sign that the tooth has “died” and may or may not become infected. 3.Look out for a pimple on the gums or discomfort, which are signs of infection as well. More information to come on the dental trauma blog. Questions? - let us know! 

I am very impressed you made it through this blog post. This post contains lots of information to take in. This is a great place to reference when you forget the details of what we talked about or when you are looking for some more information on any of these topics. Please reach out to us with your questions!

Remember to brush your teeth TWICE a day and see the dentist TWICE a year!

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