There are many milestones in the first couple years of your child’s life—first smile, first words, first steps. And when it comes to your child’s oral health, the first year has some big moments—from the difficult days of teething to that first little tooth poking its way through, to the day that had arrived for my daughter, Daisy—her first visit to the pediatric dentist.
Time for a First Visit
At Daisy’s 12-month well-baby exam, her pediatrician brought up that it was now time for her to see a dentist, especially since she had quite a few teeth already filling out her little smile. From that first bottom tooth around five months, to now, Daisy had 12 teeth, including her first set of molars.
(With so much going on in our lives, we were actually a couple months late taking Daisy for her first appointment, which is recommended to happen between the arrival of the first tooth or before the first birthday.)
Children that are Daisy’s age can be seen by almost any family dentist, but there are pediatric dentists that specialize in teeth for tots. I liked the idea of taking Daisy to see someone who had specially sized equipment for kids and was used to working with uncooperative and inexperienced patients! When I scheduled Daisy’s appointment with a pediatric dentist in our area, the office recommended a morning appointment time for a child her age, when most little ones tend to be more alert and not yet worn out from a day of playing and toddler life.
The first thing I noticed about the pediatric dental practice was the calm environment. Daisy was allowed to explore and the dentist used her natural curiosity as an advantage to introduce her first to some tools that would be used. She got to select her own toothbrush—an adorable tiny panda brush—giving her the opportunity to get to know the dentist a little before the exam began and make her less wary of the process.
For the exam, the dentist had Daddy hold Daisy on his lap and lay back towards her. Having a parent included gives the child an added level of comfort. But it can easily be said that this was not Daisy’s favorite part of the visit—there were a lot of tears and wriggling around but the whole process was over quite fast (maybe eight minutes at most!) and the dentist took the whole thing in her stride. She was very used to this kind of reaction from her first-time patients—which is why it is so important to get your child to the dentist early. The more exposure to the process, the less fear and anxiety they will experience with each visit to come.
During the exam, the dentist counted Daisy’s teeth and checked them for signs of decay, flossed and brushed the teeth with a kids’ fluoride toothpaste (using a grain-of-rice sized amount) and applied a fluoride varnish to the teeth to help strengthen the enamel. And that was it! Well, except for getting to pick out stickers—that came next and was definitely Daisy’s favorite part!
Afterwards, Daisy occupied herself in the play area while I got to follow-up and ask questions to the dentist. We discussed at-home dental care for toddlers—brushing twice each day, making an attempt to get to as many teeth as possible. Flossing at this age is not considered critical, especially if the child has adequate spacing between the back molars and is not as at-risk of having food debris stuck between them. We also discussed pacifier use—the dentist recommended weaning your child off the pacifier by age three to prevent spacing issues in the teeth but since Daisy is currently only using a pacifier at night, our new dentist felt we were well on our way to meeting that deadline.
We also discussed a new nighttime routine for Daisy—it is important not to give milk right before bed as it will sit on the teeth and can lead to decay. A bottle and food before bedtime is completely fine, but the added step of brushing the teeth before the crib is very important to keep Daisy’s teeth healthy.
Since Daisy started walking, at around 13-months, falls have been a regular part of our lives—including the tears and even a few bloody lips that come with them. I brought up this concern to the dentist, wondering if there was something that should be done to prevent damage to her front teeth during an accident. The dentist explained that during childhood, falls and resulting traumas to baby teeth are to be expected. Unfortunately, if a tooth is knocked out completely, baby teeth cannot be put back in place as this can damage the spacing for the permanent tooth below it. Your dentist should be informed of chips and cracks to teeth but most will be superficial and not require treatment.
Lastly, the dentist discussed tooth decay signs to be aware of—divots in the teeth that may appear yellow or brown. We scheduled Daisy’s next appointment in six months, took her photo as part of the Cavity-free Champs Club and were on our way to enjoying our day filled with clean, happy and healthy little smiles!