Excitement over the appearance of baby’s first tooth may be hampered by the knowledge that a trip to the dentist is in order. The Canadian Dental Association recommends baby’s first dental visit be six months after the appearance of the first tooth or at 12 months of age, whichever comes first. Toronto pediatric dentist Shonna Masse says while adults may shudder at the thought of visiting the dentist, baby’s first dental check-up is nothing to fear.
In most cases, pediatric dentists will conduct a pillow exam on patients under the age of two. Baby’s head rests on a pillow that lies on the dentist’s lap while parents stand overhead to soothe and distract them with songs or toys.
The dentist will conduct a quick check-up, examining teeth for signs of early decay and malformations. Depending on the condition of the teeth, the dentist may choose to do a cleaning and will model proper teeth brushing technique to parents. Exams for infants as young as 18 months take as little as five minutes. “They don't have many teeth yet,” says Dr. Masse.
To calm little ones’ nerves, dentists follow the “tell, show, do” approach. “If we're going to brush their teeth, we'll tell them how we're going to do it, show it on their hand and then we'll do it on their teeth,” says Dr. Masse.
Having older siblings take their turn in the dentist’s chair first can also help ease anxiety. Little ones get particularly excited when they watch their sibling pick a prize from the treasure chest at the end of the visit. Reading books about going to the dentist help play up excitement. Dora the Explorer’s Show Me Your Smile is a big hit amongst Dr. Masse’s patients.
Follow-up visits are recommended every six months. “The mouth is changing so quickly and if cavities do start, they spread quicker than in adult mouths,” says Dr. Masse.
Childhood dental decay is a major concern among dentists. Here’s how you can keep your baby’s teeth healthy:
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, August/September 2014.