As a general dentist, I am often asked by new parents, or parents of toddlers, when their baby should have their first dental visit. No one expects “6 months” to be the answer. Here is an excerpt from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry website regarding the first visit: “The AAPD recommends that the child be seen by a pediatric or general dentist at the time the first tooth comes into the mouth, and no later than the child’s first birthday,” AAPD national spokesperson Dr. Indru Punwani said. Our office offers two dentists, myself and Dr. Erika Smart, both trained at the University of Washington School of Dentistry, both trained in the oral examination of infants. The first teeth typically erupt around age 6months, although this is a rule of thumb. Some baby teeth erupt (break through the gums) earlier or later. The first eruption sets the schedule for losing baby teeth and eruption of permanant teeth. At the first examination of an infant, the dentist and the parent sit facing each other, “knee-to-knee” with the parent holding the child facing them and the baby’s legs around the parent’s waist. The parent then supports the baby’s back and leans them backward toward the dentist until the baby is laying on their back looking up at the dentist. In this position, the dentist can get a good luck at the baby’s mouth and yes, the baby usually does cry. This helps the dentist get a look, which doesn’t take long. Constant contact between parent and baby is a comfort to both parent and baby. After the quick exam, the baby can sit up again and is rewarded with a new toothbrush. During the visit, the dentist educates the parent about oral bacteria, how cavities are caused, healthy versus cavity-causing snacking, oral hygeine, teething, thumb-sucking, etc. One piece of advice that surprises many parents is that many common snacks are cariogenic (cavity-causing). Examples: dry cereal, fish crackers. Any grain product is a simple carbohydrate that is broken down into glucose in our mouths feeds our oral bacteria. The bacteria eat the glucose, metabolize it, store it, excrete their sticky, acidic waste product called plaque. The acidic plaque sticks to teeth and essentially eats holes through the enamel (hard outer layer) over time. Today, parents want so much to protect their children from everything. I see it all the time. They are happy to have this conversation with the dentist, avoid cariogenic snacks, and introduce their babies to the dentist in a comfortable way. In our office, children are not forced to do anything that they are afraid of, parents are always welcome in the treatment area, and children are encouraged to smell and touch everything. It takes very few visits for the little ones to feel comfortable sitting in the big chair, wearing the sunglasses, and getting their teeth counted. Mom and Dad are happy, Baby is happy, Dentist is happy.


Dr. Cook

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