When should a baby be seen at the dentist for the first time? I get this question often from parents. The American Dental Association recommends children have an exam as soon as teeth start erupting into the mouth. This is usually anywhere between 6 months and a year. Examining a child of this age can be difficult so often the “exam” is a quick check to be sure the teeth are erupting in the order they should and with the correct shape. I recommend to parents they begin brushing their child’s teeth as soon as they start coming into the mouth. A toddler brush, finger brush, or a small soft regular toothbrush all work well for this initial brushing. It is recommended to put a smear (size of grain of rice) of regular toothpaste on prior to brushing for 2 reasons. #1 children often like the flavor and therefore will make brushing a positive experience. #2 it has fluoride which will make the enamel of the teeth resistant to tooth decay. Once the child is old enough to brush themselves, it is often useful for the parent to brush one side while the child is brushing the other. This way the child can do it themselves and have confidence in that task, but the parent can ensure all teeth are properly brushed. And it is easier to sneak a brush in when they are busy thinking about their own brushing!
Once a child is about 2 years old, exams are routinely done on the parents lap. What I recommend to parents is to bring the child along to their exam and cleaning so the child can see that it isn’t scary and that mom/dad trusts the dentist. At this early age it is very important to make this check up fun for the child. Often putting the child in control will ease any anxiety they have. I will give the child my exam mirror and a brush and have them show me how they brush their teeth or I will have them brush mom/dad’s teeth. When they see us all having fun they want to be part of the game and the first real check up turns into a game that they want to do again and again!!!!