Although babies have the beginnings of their first teeth before they are born, teeth don’t erupt until around 6–8 months. Even though your baby doesn't have teeth, it is still important to take care of your child’s gums. Use a soft gauze pad or cloth to gently wipe baby's gums after feeding. When you first see a tooth (usually on the bottom gum), you can start brushing the tooth (and subsequent teeth) with a soft baby-sized toothbrush twice a day. Along with the ADA and AAPD, we recommend using a "smear" (size of a piece of rice) of fluoride-containing toothpaste to strengthen and clean the teeth. This very small amount, even if swallowed, is safe for your baby. Once your child is 2 years of age, you can use a "pea-size" amount of fluoride toothpaste on the toothbrush. Also, NEVER put your baby to sleep with a bottle or allow them to use a bottle or sippy cup throughout the day. The natural sugar from milk, juice, and even breast milk — if left on the teeth for extended periods — can cause severe tooth decay. To discuss these issues and check your child's teeth, we would like to see your child after the first tooth erupts and no later than their first birthday.
Your child should have all 20 primary (baby) teeth around age 3. Studies show that greater than 40% of children will have cavities before kindergarten. To prevent cavities in your children, ensure they stop using the bottle and sippy cup by age 1, use fluoride toothpaste, and don’t eat too many between-meal snacks (especially sticky foods like fruit snacks or candy). The AAPD and pediatricians recommend no more than 4–6oz of juice daily. Ensure your child stops sucking habits (pacifier, thumb, etc.) by age 3 if possible to prevent problems with their bite and facial development. Finally, children may want to brush their own teeth at this stage. It's a good idea to let them try to brush, and then you brush afterward to ensure all the surfaces are clean. Kids will typically need supervision with brushing until they are 10 years old.
This is the tooth fairy stage of teeth development, so get your pocketbooks ready! Around age 6, your child will begin to lose primary teeth in the front and gain permanent teeth in the front and back. Once the teeth start to touch (could be around ages 3–5 too), you should floss your child’s teeth (flossers work well). Children typically don’t brush along the gumline or the back teeth, so pay special attention to these problem areas. However, almost 90% of cavities in permanent molars occur in the grooves. Dental sealants are a great way to protect the permanent molars and other teeth at risk of getting decay. They are a white coating that is placed over the grooves of the teeth to prevent plaque and food from getting stuck and causing cavities. During these ages, children become more active with sports, and dental injuries are very common. Ask our team about mouthguards to protect your child's teeth during sports, especially baseball, basketball and football.
Around ages 12 or 13, most kids have lost all of their baby teeth and have a full set of permanent teeth. There are 28 permanent teeth (not including the 4 wisdom teeth). Adolescence is a time of increasing self-awareness and independence. Cavities are more common in teens than any other time in their life due to increasing freedom leading to poor diet choices (soda and candy) and a lack of brushing. During this stage, children also may notice if they have crooked teeth or if their teeth are discolored. Talk with our team regarding options for both braces and whitening. Additionally, we take a panoramic X-ray of your child's jaws to check the development of third molars, and when indicated will refer your child to an oral surgeon for removal. Be sure to let our office know if your child is experiencing pain from their wisdom teeth. Unfortunately, substance abuse may begin during this stage (90% of adult smokers began before age 19), so monitor your child for signs of alcohol or tobacco use. Finally, eating disorders are also common, and in addition to many other serious issues, can damage the teeth. Please talk with our office regarding assistance with any of these common issues of adolescence.