Everyone I’ve ever known, myself included, celebrates the first tooth that pops out of your little one’s gummy grin. It’s an exciting milestone, even if your nipples disagree. It signifies the beginning of a whole new world of solid food. Yet, it also signifies the beginning of a new routine of brushing those little chompers. It also means scheduling for their very first dentist appointment.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends for children to be seen by the dentist after their first tooth appears or no later than their first birthday. I was shocked at this recommendation. I mean, what could they possibly do to clean the teeth (or tooth) of a small, possibly angry, and certainly fidgety baby? Despite that, I scheduled anyway. I thought there had to be a reason I just couldn’t see yet. If anything, I would be able to know what to expect from the first dentist appointment.
Before The Appointment
Before I get into the actual appointment, there’s something I should mention. I grew up using the family dentist and absolutely loved him. However, this was before google and the great big internet full of reviews and advice. As it turns out, pediatric dentists are a thing now and come highly recommended for your little tots. They have a few extra years working on small children’s mouths and they’re used to working with tots. They use smaller tools for their mouths and have kid friendly waiting rooms. Pediatric dentists are also very patient with kids who may be fearful or hesitant.
In The Waiting Room
I scheduled with a well reviewed pediatric dentist. This seemed to be the most recommended path. In the waiting room, on the day of our appointment, I noticed the kids coming out had the the opportunity to take home a book as well as a balloon. Those waiting to go in had toys to play with and a kid friendly movie to keep them entertained. So far, I was pretty happy with the place.
First, I had to fill in some paperwork. I was asked questions such as any allergies Bean might have along with some personal questions like how many dogs or cats we have and their names. These sorts of questions are helpful for staff to help make your little one feel more comfortable in the hot seat. I was also asked about my son’s feeding habits and about any habits such as sucking fingers or pacifiers.
Inside The Office
Once inside, the hygienist helped me position my son for the appointment. Instead of using the regular chair, I seated myself on a bench and had my son straddle my lap, facing me. Then the hygienist sat in front of me and Bean laid back into her lap. I held his hands and my arms were able to control his legs. This allowed her to get in there and brush his 4.5 teeth. While she brushed, she discussed flouride with me and how much toothpaste to use. She also went over other basic dental hygiene with me, which wasn’t really all that necessary.
After the “cleaning” (aka: toothbrushing), the doctor came over to check his teeth. I asked about the purpose of scheduling the first dentist appointment at such a young age. I was told the early appointments allowed the dentist to make sure everything was coming in correctly (not that they could do anything if they weren’t).
However, the biggest reason had to do with the lack of basic dental care on behalf of the parents. I guess dentists are used to seeing small children with half rotten teeth by their first appointment. Maybe this is because parents fail to teach them basic dental hygiene from the beginning. Either way, an earlier appointment means they are able to educate parents on appropriate feeding practices such as when not to give a bottle and what sorts of drinks are best avoided. It also gives them the opportunity to recommend fluoride for cavity protection.
While this might be nice for parents who are uninformed, I have very strong feelings about good dental hygiene. I have been teaching my son about it since he was born. We have been practicing brushing and learning about toothbrushes every day since he was old enough to chew on things. Since his first tooth appeared, we have also been aiding in his brushing routine. We want to make sure he actually gets them clean each time.
After The Appointment
To be honest, I didn’t find much utility in the the first dentist appointment. I kind of suspected it would be more about educating the parents, but I guess I was hoping there might be something new or important they would cover that I wasn’t already aware of. I essentially ended up spending an hour of my time for my son to get his teeth brushed and to be reminded that he shouldn’t have a bottle in bed. All in all, I could have taken less than 5 minutes at home to do the same thing for him.
That isn’t to say it doesn’t have potential benefits. It provides early interaction with dental procedure and helps them become accustomed to the process. It also allows for parents to be aware of any potential issues that might be happening while the teeth are coming in. For my son, he got a cool balloon, free book, a toothbrush, and toothpaste.
As a new mother, I had no idea what to expect from our son’s first dentist appointment. Of course, I had some ideas of what it might entail, but nothing to confirm those notions. While it was informative, it was mostly just a quick peek at his teeth and a standard tooth brushing. Thus, I didn’t find much benefit for our family to schedule at such a young age. With my next child, I may skip out until my kid turns 2 or 3 and keep practicing quality care at home.
I would like to point out that I am not a medical or dental professional and am in no way making a recommendation for your family. In fact, you can view all the latest guidelines and recommendations on the AAPD’s website located here. Have you considered scheduling your child’s first dentist appointment? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments below!