My dentist tells me to prioritize my dental care. My doctor tells me to prioritize my health. My fitness friends tell me I need to exercise. “You need to take care of yourself!” But it’s not as easy as it sounds with a new baby around.
For new moms, the first 3 to 6 to 9 months (or longer!) are consumed with taking care of this small human being and trying to figure out a new routine for your life. Generally, your typical routine doesn’t exist anymore, which can sometimes mean there is little time to take care of yourself.
Now, I know it’s important. I totally get that, so I’m not saying these recommendations aren’t valid: take care of your teeth, take care of your health, take care of yourself. But doing them is a whole lot harder than these blanket statements let on.
I’m sure many of you understand the struggle and challenge of making it to your dental appointments. In my search for advice, I found nothing online that offered any suggestions for what we, as new moms, can do to make these appointments rather than just skipping them altogether.
I decided to do some research of my own and write this article. I talked to other moms I know about this very topic and gleaned some helpful information. Here’s what I found.
How to Go to the Dentist When You Have a Small Child
“It is a big issue. What do you do with babies during a dental appointment? Tiny babies are easy enough—although a little stressful—but babies that are crawling or starting to walk… Sometimes there’s not money for a babysitter. Some parents don’t leave their babies because they’re breastfeeding and the baby won’t take a bottle. So what do you do? You just put it off. After having pregnancies that zap your body of calcium… After throwing up acid all over your teeth for months… There just seems to be no easy answer.”
Like many new moms, Anonymous Mom struggled to go to her routine dental appointments. As a result, her dental care was put on hold and the cavities surfaced. This mom now needs a lot of work done on her teeth. She’s finally to a point where she can go to the dentist since her kids are older, but the dental work has piled up.
I can sympathize. Going to the dentist when you have children can be difficult and you won’t always find people who understand.
For instance, how in the world am I supposed to visit a dentist between 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, when I have a 3-month-old baby and my husband works? Do I just ask the dental admin to hold my baby while I get my teeth cleaned?
I recently called the dentist to make an appointment. I have a 20-month-old now and I work from home part-time. Fortunately, my dentist is open on Saturdays and my husband doesn’t work Friday afternoons, but that’s still a small timeframe to go to the dentist, especially when those are likely the dentist’s busiest hours.
The dental assistant was resistant when I said I was only available Friday afternoons or Saturday. She tried to explain their available times: Monday morning, Thursday afternoon, etc., a couple of times like I hadn’t heard them before. I countered by explaining that it just wasn’t possible for me to come at those times unless I held my child in my lap while getting a teeth cleaning, which did not sound like an appealing idea.
She finally conceded that they did have a Saturday opening in 3 weeks. That was fine with me! Granted, I wished it was earlier than that but I would make do.
After polling several moms in my network of friends, there are actually quite a few solutions out there for us all to consider; they just aren’t publicized like they should be.
Switching dentists can be hard, especially if you really like the dentist you have. However, finding a dentist with more flexible hours that will work for your family may mean less pain, time and cost for you.
If you want to prevent cavities from occurring or receive treatment sooner, switching dentists may be the answer. Dental doesn’t just affect your teeth. Poor dental hygiene can affect your overall health, too.
“My husband has a flexible schedule so I would try to schedule my appointment early or at lunch or the last one of the day so that he could watch our son. It can be hard to do though if there are several things that pay period that he is trying to be home for.”
What Kind of Flexible Hours Do Dentists Offer?
Some dentists open early or stay open later on weekdays. Others are even open during select hours on the weekend. Having a dentist with flexible hours could mean you schedule an appointment for early in the morning or late in the evening when your spouse is around to watch the kids. Or maybe you can all go together.
“I usually have to wait for my husband to get home to go to the dentist. Often, we go together and take turns with the kids in the waiting room so we can both get our teeth cleaned.”
2. Schedule Appointments Over Holiday Breaks
A few moms told me they wait to schedule appointments over holiday breaks, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, when they know their spouse will be off work. While these may be busier times for your dentist, if you schedule an appointment far enough in advance you should be okay.
It might also be a nice way to get a teeth cleaning right after chowing down on all that delicious holiday food!
3. Find a Dentist with Childcare
A few of my mom friends told me their dentist actually provides free child care. This was a new concept to me; I didn’t even know dentists were doing this now.
“How I’ve typically gone to the dentist was getting a babysitter. I’ve been lucky to have sitters that didn’t charge too much and were great people. Since moving to North Richland Hills, however, I found a dentist that actually provides childcare for free. So now I don’t even worry about it!”
“When Wilson was little, if I had to go for a short visit or cleaning, I took him because our dentist has a child care area. When I had to go for a root canal, I either went during the day while he was at daycare or found someone to watch him.”
4. Go While Your Child Is at Day Care
Do you work during the day? If your child is in daycare, schedule some time around lunch or early or late in the day to go to the dentist for an appointment while your child still has a place to be. This is what I did for my most recent appointment. While I was a little disappointed to be losing out on hours I would be able to work that day, I was glad to be able to go to the dentist easily and not have to worry about what I would do with my little one.
“Now that my boys have started daycare, I would probably just schedule it early one morning or late one afternoon and take them early or leave them later at daycare. My husband could also drop them off or pick them up that day. I might even schedule it for a day when I’m off work and daycare is open.”
5. Take Your Child with You and Sit Them in Your Lap
While I cringe at the thought of trying to attempt this with my little one, even when she wasn’t crawling or walking around, there are some moms who have done this successfully. If you have a child that sits still or a baby that is content resting in your arms without excess squirming, you might be able to survive the visit with them there.
I would recommend checking with your dentist though to make sure that won’t be a problem for them!
And if your child is older, they can probably come with you and just wait in the waiting room.
“I’ve never attempted to take the little ones with me but my 9-year-old has had to sit and wait in the waiting room some over the past few years. I’ve used 5-point strollers and snacks at my other doctor appointments.”
6. Mother’s Day Out
Mother’s Day Out is a program put together in many communities by a community center, ministry or church. Some of these programs range from just a few days a week to every day of the week. Some have curriculum included to help get your child ready for school or they just facilitate fun social time for your child with other children his/her age.
It was established to help give moms some time to run errands and go out for the day. It might be an option to help you go to your dental appointments.
“At 18 months, my son started going to Mother’s Day Out so I’ve tried to schedule my dental appointments during that time. I have a lot of support. It’s tempting to not go just because I don’t want to have to schedule someone and make a point of it, but it’s never been a hard thing to do. I’m just lazy.”
7. Hire a Babysitter
This seems like an easy solution, but finding a sitter during the day can be challenging. Fortunately, it’s not impossible.
While many of your regular sitters may work during the day, there may be people in your life you’re not thinking of that could actually be of great help to you:
Most of the friends and family we have nearby work during the day, but we have made this work in the past. For example, my sister-in-law works from home and has a flexible schedule most of the time, so she has been able to watch our little one during the day when we need help. Also, my mother-in-law can sometimes watch our daughter while she’s at work or during her lunch break.
A friend of mine said she has her aunt, who lives nearby, watch her kids.
“I went when the twins were almost 2 months old and thankfully my aunt lives really close and was able to watch them for a little while in between feedings.”
Other moms said they have had to ask a family member to drive a long distance to come watch the kids, but they’ve made it work in the past.
“I’ve had to ask my dad to drive 45 minutes to come watch the little ones so I could go to appointments.”
I have a friend who home-schools her kids. Usually, she is available to watch my little one for a few hours during the day. That has been great for going to the dentist or getting other things done while trusting that my child is in capable hands.
Do you have friends who are stay-at-home moms who wouldn’t mind watching your kid(s) for a few hours while you go to the dentist? Would you consider doing a kid swap?
“I usually do a kid swap with a fellow stay-at-home mom when I do go to the dentist. Sometimes I’ll watch their kids one morning then the other mom will watch my kids one morning. Or I also have a group of friends where we all sort of watch each other’s kids when things come up.”
Another idea would be to find a friend who goes to the same dentist as you do and see if you’re able to schedule your appointments back-to-back to exchange babysitting duties and both get your teeth cleaned!
Do you have friends who are college students or maybe friends’ kids who are college students? Their class schedules can sometimes be more flexible so their off times could be during the day when you need to go to the dentist.
What about a grandma or retired senior you know from church or another community you’re involved in? Could you ask him/her to watch your kid(s) for a little while so you can go to the dentist?
Do you have a good relationship with your neighbors? Is there a neighbor you trust who could watch your child for a little while so you can go to the dentist?
Thinking back to when I was a kid, we had several kids of the same age on our street. We were constantly playing at one another’s houses, which honestly probably gave our moms a nice little break.
Care.com or Another Babysitting Network
Care.com may have a list of babysitters in your area who could be available to watch your child. Have you ever used them before? Share your experience in the comments below! Was it useful? Did you trust the recommendations?
How Important Is My Dental Health, Anyway
Taking care of our dental health is important. It is really amazing how closely our dental health is linked to our overall health. And no mom wants to feel sick during the week. We don’t get sick days.
Trying to find a solution for your family is easy to put off, but finding something that works is essential. The longer you put off dental care, the costlier, more inconvenient and more expensive dental treatment becomes. And as tempting as it is, skipping routine dental visits shouldn’t be an option.
Hopefully one of the solutions listed above will work for your family. Try it out and see what happens.
“I have only been to the dentist maybe two times since I’ve had kids. I know I need to go but when the kids all need to go to the dentist and doctor, too, my appointments don’t fall too high on the priority list.”
We’ve all been there. There are so many appointments, putting off one of ours seems logical.
Solidarity, sister. We’re all going through it together, but we need to start encouraging and helping each other get the dental care we need.