It’s best to start your child’s oral hygiene routine early. Start bringing them in to see us when the first tooth erupts but no later than his or her first birthday. This is when the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a child go to the dentist for the first time.
An exam and a cleaning are normally performed at this visit. We will look for cavities, examine the soft tissues, and check the tooth development. This first visit should be short, pleasant, and easy on the child. We want them to see the dentist’s chair as a safe, fun place.
The average age of a child getting his or her first tooth is around 6-7 months. However, some children are born with a tooth or two already showing, while others may not get their first tooth until after their first birthday. Any and all of these scenarios are normal.
Usually the first teeth to erupt are the bottom front two (central incisors) around 6-7 months, followed by the top front two (central incisors) around 8-12 months. To help alleviate discomfort, give Children’s Motrin (Children’s Ibuprofen), or Children’s Tylenol as directed on the bottle or by a Physician. Having your child bite on a teething ring or very cold washcloth can also help.
Yes! Cavities can occur at any age once teeth are present. Most tooth decay in infants and toddlers is caused by liquids containing sugar, whether it be natural or refined sugar. This is true even if the liquid is 100% juice, infant formula, cow milk or breast milk! These nutrient-rich drinks have natural sugars in them that can cause tooth decay.
If the baby is being breastfed, some pediatricians advise waiting until a nursing routine has been established before introducing a pacifier. The American Academy of Pediatrics has encouraged the use of a pacifier during the first year of life to help reduce the chance of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). It’s best to stop the use of the pacifier soon after the first birthday. Waiting longer increases the chance of dental deformities, and can result in your child having difficulty letting go of their pacifier.
Goals for stopping the pacifier/thumb/finger/lip habits are usually set for around age 3. Stopping the pacifier around 12 months of age can be easier to do because the child is less attached to it. Thumb/finger/lip habits can be harder to break. If stopped by age 3, the chance of facial/jaw malformations is decreased. If it continues, orthodontics is usually necessary to correct the misaligned teeth, and in worst case scenarios jaw surgery is needed later in life.
Baby teeth are more important than you might think. They are vital to speech development, are required for proper chewing, and help facilitate the healthy development of the adult teeth that are growing. Cavities can be extremely painful, and cause infection. Decay can lead to premature tooth loss, which can cause developmental problems with the adult teeth. Early loss of baby teeth can also lead to spacing issues causing crowding and the need for orthodontic procedures or oral surgery later in life.
Any kind of fluoridated toothpaste your child tolerates is fine. The proper amount of toothpaste is no more than a smear for children less than 2 years old, and a small pea sized amount for children aged 2-5 years (too much toothpaste, if swallowed, can damage developing adult teeth.) The toothbrush should be soft bristled, not medium or hard. Don’t forget to brush all sides of the teeth: the cheek and lip surfaces, the chewing surfaces, the tongue, and the roof of the mouth. Any type of floss is good as long as it’s getting used!
Flossing should begin as soon as two teeth touch. Baby teeth can get cavities as early as 6 months of age! If a child gets a cavity in between two teeth, these cavities progress quickly and are more involved to treat. Flossing between teeth as early as possible can help prevent cavities.
The manual dexterity needed to brush and floss the teeth well usually develops between the ages of 8-10. Some children may seem competent before this age, but check their teeth regularly to ensure that brushing and flossing is being done correctly.
Many wells already have fluoride in their water content; you can have your well water tested for fluoride if needed. If there are questions or concerns over a lack of fluoride, ACT Fluoride or Listerine with Fluoride are over the counter rinses that can benefit everyone both children and adults.
Sealants are a protective coating placed on the chewing surfaces of molars. The purpose is to seal the grooves and pits in the chewing surface of the tooth that are too small for toothbrush bristles to completely clean. These coatings help prevent cavities, can be white or clear, and do not require numbing for the application.
The American Academy of Orthodontists recommends a child see an orthodontist around age 7, or when all four 6-year molars have erupted. Braces may not be put on at this age (unless there are severe bite issues, spacing problems, or overcrowding of teeth) but plans can be made for how and when orthodontic treatment may begin.
* Note: Please do not put your child to sleep with a bottle or sippy cup full of milk, juice, breast milk, formula, etc. This is the number one way children under 3 get cavities. If you still give your child liquids in a sippy cup, PLEASE only give it to them at meal times. Frequent use of a sippy cup with milk, juice, breast milk, or formula, can cause early childhood cavities. If you need to put your child to bed with a liquid for comfort, please use water or something sugar free. This practice can accustom your child to the beneficial practice of drinking water as well.
The AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) FAQ can be helpful as well: