The American Dental Association (ADA), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) all recommend that children have an established “dental home” by their first birthday. It is important to help children develop healthy habits while they are young so their teeth remain strong throughout their lifetime.
We want your child’s first dental visit to be a positive experience. If your child is old enough to understand, they should be told about their appointment. It is best to not make a big deal out of their visit though…try to treat it as if it is just another normal day. Our team strives to gain your child’s trust so they can have little (if any) apprehension at the dentist.
Why Are Baby Teeth Important?
The health of your child’s baby (primary) teeth is very important for a number of different reasons. While your child’s front four teeth only last until they are 6-8 years old, their back teeth aren’t lost until between the ages of 10-13.
The first function of baby teeth is to allow your child to properly eat, chew, and speak. Baby teeth are also essential to help maintain adequate space for the growing permanent teeth and guide them into the right position. Furthermore, neglecting your child’s primary teeth can lead to problems that in turn may affect their developing permanent teeth.
Care of Your Child's Teeth
You should begin cleaning your child’s gums with a soft cloth and water from the time they are born. As soon as their teeth begin to erupt, proper tooth brushing is one of the most important things you can do to help protect your child’s teeth from cavity-causing bacteria. You should use a soft-bristled toothbrush with a small amount of toothpaste (no more than a pea-sized amount) and be sure that your child spits out the excess toothpaste after they are finished. Wherever your child’s teeth touch together you need to floss as well. Those tight spaces often trap food and bacteria, which can in turn lead to the formation of cavities. The grocery store and drugstores such as Walgreens and CVS usually sell children’s floss picks in the dental care aisle. These picks are usually much easier to use than traditional dental floss. In addition to all the above, it is important that you help your child brush his or her teeth. It is good to let them “help,” but young children lack the coordination to effectively brush their teeth on their own.
Eruption of Your Child’s Teeth
Your child’s teeth begin forming before they are even born. Most children cut their first teeth (the lower 2 front teeth) between the ages of 6-10 months. Most children have all 20 of their primary teeth by the time they are 3 years old, but the eruption order and timing can vary.
Children’s permanent teeth begin to erupt when they are approximately 6 years old. The first permanent teeth to appear are the first molars and lower front 2 teeth (the central incisors). Adults have 28-32 permanent teeth (depending on how many wisdom teeth develop).
Infants and young children may suck their thumb, fingers, a pacifier, or a variety of other objects. Sucking is a natural reflex that often helps them feel a sense of security and happiness. While it is not a problem when they are younger, sucking habits that continue after a child’s permanent teeth have begun to erupt can lead to problems with proper jaw growth and alignment of teeth (such as crowding and anterior open bite, see photo below). We recommend children stop thumb sucking by the time they are 2-4 years of age.
Sippy cups are utilized as an intermediate training tool between baby bottles and an adult cup. At mealtimes you may fill your child’s sippy cup with liquids other than water (milk, juice, etc.), but throughout the day it should contain water only. Allowing your child to sip on sugary drinks throughout the day can break down their enamel and cause rampant tooth decay.
Sealants are a protective coating applied to help “fill in” the deep grooves on children’s back teeth (their permanent molar and premolar teeth). Children often have difficulty keeping these teeth clean due to their limited dexterity and how far back these teeth are in the mouth. In fact, 80% of cavities in children are diagnosed on their molars and premolars. Sealants function to “seal out” food, acid, and decay-causing bacteria in order to help prevent cavities.
When is the Best Time for Braces?
While some malocclusions (“bad bites”) can be diagnosed and corrected as early as ages 4-6, most orthodontic treatment begins between the ages of 8-12. We recommend children go for their first orthodontic consult around the time they turn 8 years old. While they may still have some of their baby teeth at this point, their hard and soft tissues are very responsive to treatment at this time.