As a new parent, you know you would do anything you can to keep your baby happy and healthy. That commitment should include their oral care needs. After all, the quality of your child’s oral care is important to their overall health. This article reviews five ways you can prepare for your baby’s oral care needs before they arrive.
Why it’s important to take care of your baby’s teeth
But first, let’s start by reviewing why it’s important to take care of your baby’s teeth. There is a misconception that parents don’t need to worry about their child’s teeth until they are older, but that is not the case. Although newly formed, baby teeth can develop problems like Early Childhood Caries (ECC), thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, lip sucking and early tooth loss. Aside from these issues, you want your baby’s teeth to be strong and healthy so that they can easily chew their food and absorb nutrients that are important for growth. Baby teeth also lay the foundation for permanent teeth, so it’s best to start good oral hygiene habits early that your child can carry throughout their life. Now let’s dive into the steps you can take to plan for your baby’s oral care needs.
1). Purchase infant dental care products
The first thing you will want to do to prepare for your baby’s oral care is buy infant-friendly dental products. A few basic items to start with are washcloths, teethers, teething gel and an infant toothbrush. Even though your baby will not have teeth yet, you should still use washcloths to wipe their gums of any residue after feeding and before bedtime. You will need a teether for your baby to nibble on during the critical period when their teeth are growing in. Teethers come in many different forms and sizes including necklaces, rings, sippy cups, mittens, etc. Since teething is a painful and uncomfortable time, you should also consider purchasing teething gel to cool and soothe your baby. Once your baby’s teeth begin to appear, you will need a small infant toothbrush, or a silicone finger brush, to clean their teeth. These items will help you take care of your infant’s teeth and gums at home, prior to seeking additional care from a dental professional.
2). Research pediatric dentists in your area
One of the most important decisions you can make as a new parent to maintain your baby’s oral health is choosing the right pediatric dentist. They will be able to analyze your baby's condition (such as spotting minor tooth decay from bottle feeding) and set them on a path towards good oral hygiene. To find a good pediatric dentist start by asking friends, family or coworkers who they recommend, then look at others near your home. Once you narrow down your search, call or visit the office to learn more about the dentist(s) and their practice. A few important questions to ask include:
- Has [dentist name] received specialty training? Pediatric training teaches dentists how to deal with children’s behavior, how to make them feel comfortable, how to create a pleasant experience and even how to treat children with special needs. With this knowledge a dentist will be better equipped to keep your baby happy while in their care.
- What is your office environment like? Fun, bright and colorful decor featuring cartoons or games will engage your baby’s senses and make them more excited to visit when they get older. Creating a child-friendly environment also showcases the practice’s level of commitment to your baby’s patient experience. You can get an inside peek by looking at pictures on their website and social media pages.
- In what ways do you show your patients you care? Look for dental professionals who take the time to explain to their patients what is going on with age-appropriate language and encourage or reward them once they are finished (balloons, stickers, high-fives). These small gestures will build trust with your baby as they age and increase their willingness to go for appointments.
Once you feel like you have chosen the right professional to care for your child you will need to explore your dental care coverage options.
3). Find a good dental coverage option
Once you’ve found a pediatric dentist that you like, you will need to choose a dental benefit plan that they accept. This will require purchasing a dental benefit from the market yourself or using coverage sponsored by your employer. Regardless of which route you take, you will want to make sure your baby’s plan includes preventative maintenance. Additionally, since accidents are bound to happen, it’s best to find coverage that includes emergency visits for anything from an unexpected toothache to a more severe accident.
4). Consider a pediatric dental membership plan
A pediatric dental membership plan is a very popular dental coverage option for babies and children. Parents like it because it is simple and cost-effective. Here’s how it works. You pay a subscription to your dentist directly in return for your baby’s preventative care and discounts off other treatment. For example, your pediatric dentist may offer a plan that includes two professional cleanings, two regular exams, two fluoride treatments, one bitewing x-ray and one emergency exam for $19 a month, or $228 a year. In addition, most pediatric dental membership plans include a 20-30% discount off other procedures children may need, such as sealants.
Another major benefit of a pediatric dental membership plan is that they help your baby’s dentist adjust their oral care as they age through what’s called a care plan progression. A care plan progression is a set of membership plans that are tailored to children’s needs depending on their age. A care plan progression automatically includes age appropriate procedures as they age from infant, to child, to teenager.
5). Prepare for their first dental appointment
As a new parent, you will learn first-hand just how quickly your new infant will grow. Before you know it they will be ready to visit the pediatric dentist for the first time. Schedule their first appointment either once their first tooth comes in or around their first birthday. You can take action now to prepare for what you want to ask. A few important questions include:
- Am I using the right technique to clean my baby’s teeth? Your pediatric dentist can review what leads to baby bottle tooth decay and cavities, and how to avoid them with good oral hygiene habits. Your baby’s first appointment is a great time to talk about what you have been doing to care for your baby’s teeth and if any adjustments need to be made.
- When should my baby stop using a pacifier? Your pediatric dentist will be able to estimate what age is appropriate to wean your baby off a pacifier and how to potentially prevent your them from sucking their thumb. Thumb sucking in particular can lead to crooked teeth that will require brace once they are older.
- Do you see any signs of problems to come? Early signs of cavities and gum inflammation are examples of what pediatric dentists are trained to look for in your baby. Knowing if your baby has any of these issues will help you avoid future problems or prepare for future treatment.
These questions are a good starting point for what you want to cover with your pediatric dentist. You can also contact them in advance to get a better understanding of what to expect from their initial consultation.
Although your baby may not have arrived yet, you can still take the steps outlined above to prepare for their oral care needs. With the right dental products, your baby’s teeth will remain clean throughout their development. By researching pediatric dentists ahead of time, you will feel confident that you have a professional you can go to when your child is ready, or even if your baby has an unexpected emergency. Finding the right dental coverage option, such as a pediatric dental membership plan, will give you peace of mind that your baby is covered for the procedures they will need, at a price that you can afford. Finally, preparing for your baby’s first pediatric dental visit will give you the confidence that you are asking the right questions and ensure that you walk away from the appointment with the information you need. These practices will set your baby on the path towards great lifelong oral health.