The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends…
Children should visit the dentist by their first birthday. It is important that your child’s newly-erupted teeth (erupting at six and 12 months of age) receive proper dental care and benefit from proper oral hygiene habits right from the beginning. Getting to know your teeth is fun!
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Baby’s New Teeth
Your child’s first primary or baby teeth will begin to erupt between the ages of six and 12 months, and will continue to erupt until about age three. During this time, your child’s gums may feel tender and sore. To help alleviate this discomfort, we recommend that you soothe the gums by rubbing a clean finger or a cool, wet cloth across them. You may also choose to make use of a teething ring. When your child has finished teething, you can expect a total of 20 primary teeth.
Your child’s primary teeth are shed at various times throughout childhood. Permanent teeth begin erupting at age six, and continue until age 21. Adults have 28 permanent teeth (32, including wisdom teeth).
Adopting Healthy Oral Hygiene Habits for Babies
As your child’s teeth erupt, be sure to examine them every two weeks, looking for lines and discoloration that may be caused by decay. Remember that sugary foods and liquids can attack a new tooth, so take care that your child brushes after feeding or eating. We recommend brushing four times a day for optimal oral hygiene: after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner, and at bedtime.
Brushing can be fun, and your child should brush as soon as the first tooth arrives. When a baby’s tooth erupts, parents should brush the tooth with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. For children younger than two, do not use fluoride toothpaste unless advised to do so by your dentist or other healthcare professional. We suggest reviewing proper tooth brushing procedures with your child.
Flossing is also a part of good oral hygiene habits, and your doctor will discuss with you the right time to start flossing. If you notice signs of decay, contact your dentist immediately.
Dental Care for Baby
Congratulations on the arrival of your baby! Are you prepared for the arrival of your baby’s first tooth? Follow these guidelines and your son or daughter will be on the way to a lifetime of healthy smiles!
Caring for Baby’s Gums
Even before your baby’s first tooth appears, the gums can benefit from your careful attention. After breast or bottle feeding, wrap one finger with a clean, damp washcloth or piece of gauze and gently rub it across your baby’s gum tissue. This practice both clears your little one’s mouth of any fragments of food and begins the process for building good daily oral care habits.
Baby’s First Tooth
When that first tooth makes an entrance, it’s time to upgrade to a baby toothbrush. There are usually two options: a long-handled toothbrush that you and your baby can hold at the same time, and a finger-puppet-like brush that fits over the tip of your pointer finger. In each case, the bristles are soft and few.
At this stage, toothpaste isn’t necessary; just dip the brush in water before brushing. If your little one doesn’t react well to the introduction of a toothbrush, don’t give up. Switch back to a damp washcloth for a few months and try the toothbrush again. During the teething process, your child will want to chew on just about anything, and a baby toothbrush with a teether can become a favorite toy during this period.
Brushing with Toothpaste
When a few more teeth appear, you can start using toothpaste with your child’s brush. However, for the first two years, be sure to choose toothpaste that does not contain fluoride, unless advised to do so by your dentist, because too much fluoride can be dangerous for youngsters. At this stage, use only a tiny amount of toothpaste. From the beginning, have your little one practice spitting the toothpaste out after brushing to prepare for fluoride toothpaste, which should not be swallowed at any age.
Avoiding Cavities in Babies
Don’t give your baby any sort of sweetened liquids such as flavored drinks or soda. Even the sugars present in fruit juice, formula, and milk (this goes for breast milk as well) can cause decay, so regular teeth and gum cleaning is vital. Also, make sure your baby never goes to bed with a bottle; sugary liquids in prolonged contact with teeth are a guarantee for early-childhood decay, also called baby-bottle caries.
First Visit to the Dentist
It’s recommended that you bring your baby in for a visit within six months of the first tooth’s eruption – usually around his or her first birthday. Since decay can occur in even the smallest of teeth, the earlier your baby visits us, the more likely he or she is to avoid problems. We’ll look for any signs of early problems with your baby’s oral heath, and check in with you about the best way to care for your little one’s teeth. Remember that preparing for each dental visit with a positive attitude goes a long way toward making your child comfortable with regular checkups.
Setting a Good Example
As part of the natural learning process, little ones are expert mimics, and you can take advantage of this talent. Brush and floss daily while your child is watching, and he or she will intuit at an early age the importance of your good habits. As soon as your child shows interest, offer a toothbrush of his or her own and encourage your toddler to “brush” with you. (You’ll find toothbrushes with chunky, short handles that are easy to grip.) Most children don’t have the dexterity necessary to thoroughly clean their own teeth until they’re about six or seven, so you’ll have to do that part of the job. Try different tactics to make brushing fun: flavored toothpaste, a toothbrush with a favorite character on it, or singing songs about brushing. The primary goal is to instill healthy oral habits at an early age to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy, cavity-free teeth!
The Importance of Baby Teeth
Just because your child’s primary teeth, often known as “baby teeth,” eventually fall out, that doesn’t mean they’re not important. Primary teeth play an important role in your child’s overall health, development, and well-being.
Much like your own permanent teeth, your child’s primary teeth require professional and at-home dental care. Decay can happen at any age, so it’s time to visit the dentist within six months of the appearance of your child’s first tooth, and certainly by age one.
In addition to checking for tooth decay and other pediatric dental problems, your dentist will show you the best ways to start your child on a lifetime of good oral health habits.
What is the purpose of primary teeth?
Most children have a full set of primary teeth by the time they’re three years old. Primary teeth are important for many reasons. They:
Promote good nutrition through proper chewing
Assist in speech development
Build self-esteem by providing a beautiful smile
Enable the child to pay attention and learn in school without the distraction of dental pain
Provide a path for permanent teeth to follow when they are ready to erupt
What Happens if Baby Teeth are Not Cared For?
Primary teeth can get cavities just like adult teeth. In addition to the pain caused by a cavity, young children can develop dental infections. Primary tooth decay is a serious, infectious, and transmissible disease that can spread quickly and lead to infection or abscess without proper precautions. This can be especially harmful to children because their immune systems aren’t fully developed.
If a tooth becomes infected and needs to be extracted, the dentist will recommend inserting a space maintainer. If the space is not preserved, other teeth may drift, causing difficult-to-treat crowding and orthodontic problems when permanent teeth come in.
The most important aspect of taking care of your child’s primary teeth is the example you help to set. Early on, your child should develop the habit of brushing and flossing that will carry into adulthood. Healthy teeth also lead to easier dental visits, which teach your child there is nothing to be afraid of at the dentist.