The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Recommends…
Children should visit the dentist as soon as their first tooth erupts or by their first birthday if no teeth have yet erupted. It is important that your child’s newly-erupted teeth (erupting at 4-9 months of age) receive proper dental care and benefit from proper oral hygiene habits right from the beginning.
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When New Teeth Arrive
Your child’s first primary or baby teeth normally erupts between the ages of four and nine months, and will continue to erupt until about age two to 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. Teething rings can be cooled in the refrigerator but NEVER in the freezer! 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, and their permanent teeth begin erupting around age five to six, and continue until somewhere around age 18 – 21. Adults have 32 permanent teeth, including wisdom teeth.
Adopting Healthy Oral Hygiene Habits
As your child’s teeth erupt, be sure to examine them frequently, looking for lines and discoloration that may be caused by decay. Remember that sugary foods and liquids can attack a new tooth, even one that it barely poking through the gums, so take care that you brush your child after feeding or eating. We recommend brushing four times a day for optimal oral hygiene: after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner, and at bedtime. At a BARE MINIMUM, after breakfast and before bed MUST be performed.
Brushing can be fun, and you should brush child as soon as the first tooth arrives. In fact, you can build good habits and start forming cooperation skills by brushing the gums BEFORE any teeth arrive. When a baby’s tooth erupts, parents should brush the tooth with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a “smear” of toothpaste. The AAPD guideline used to be to use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste; then it was revised to half of a pea. Currently, a smear is described as less than half a pea. For children younger than 18 months, 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. You child’s teeth should be brushed by a responsible adult until the age of 10 when the fine motor skills finally are able to handle the responsibility of brushing WELL.
Flossing is also a part of good oral hygiene habits, and your doctor will discuss with you the right time to start flossing. Typically, this is as soon as two teeth erupt adjacent to each other. If you notice signs of decay, contact your dentist immediately.
Preventing tooth Decay With Regular Checkups
Tooth decay is caused by any carbohydrate (sugars) put in your mouth that are turned into an acid by the bacteria that are naturally in our mouths. This acid can break down your teeth. Children are at high risk for tooth decay for a simple reason, many children and adolescents do not practice regular, good oral hygiene habits. Proper brushing and flossing routines combined with regular dental visits help keep tooth decay away.
Your child should visit the dentist every six months for regular dental cleanings and checkups. We recommend fluoride treatments twice a year along with cleanings to keep teeth their strongest. Tooth sealants are also recommended because they “seal” the deep grooves in your child’s teeth, preventing decay from forming in these hard-to-reach areas. Sealants typically last for several years, but will be monitored at your regular checkups.