Children's Teeth

When Should My Child First Visit The Dentist? As early as one year. Your child's first birthday is an excellent time to seek a well-baby dental evaluation, to diagnose and prevent any future oral disorders. The age of one year is also a good time to begin weaning your child from the bottle.

What Will Happen At The First Visit?
The dentist or dental hygienist will examine your child's mouth. The examination will include the teeth, gums, tongue, lips and roof of the mouth. Depending upon the child's age, number of teeth present and ability to cooperate, the dentist may order a few cavity-detecting X-rays, if decay is suspected. X-rays are also helpful in determining that the permanent teeth are developing normally. Your child may also have his or her teeth cleaned.

How Can I Prepare My Child?
Make the first visit something for the child to look forward to. Morning appointments are usually when the child is most rested and cooperative. Do not attempt to bribe your child. Today, dentistry for children is a fun and positively anticipated experience. You might read your child a story about a trip to the dentist. Or you can play 'dentist" with the child by taking turns looking into each other's mouths with a flashlight.

If your child asks a question you feel uncomfortable answering, you may respond, "I don't know. Let's ask the dentist." This keeps you from unnecessarily scaring the child; it also allows your child an active role in the appointment.

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How Can I Help My Child Keep A Healthy Smile For A Lifetime?
There are a number of ways.

  • As a parent, practice good oral hygiene, yourself.
  • Before your child's teeth start to appear in the mouth, begin to massage the teeth and gums with your finger or a warm, wet washcloth or a small gauze pad.
  • When the first baby teeth appear, floss and brush your child's teeth until he is old enough to do this himself. (It's easiest to have the child sit on your lap.)
  • Feed your child a balanced diet and offer healthy snacks. (Keep bite-sized fresh vegetables at eye level in your refrigerator.)
  • Ask your dentist about fluoride and protective sealants.
  • If your child, adolescent or teenager is active in contact sports, ask your dentist about a protective mouth guard-and insist your child wear it.
  • Make sure your child has regular dental care throughout his development.

Baby Teeth Will Be Lost. Why Should They Be Fixed?
There are many reasons. First, the baby (primary) teeth provide a foundation and guidance for the permanent (secondary) teeth. If a child has teeth that are improperly spaced or have extensive decay, crowding, shifting or poor oral habits, early corrective treatment may be necessary to prevent more extensive treatment (including orthodontia-braces) in the future.

Early tooth development also affects a child's ability to eat, chew, form speech patterns and swallow. This is especially important for your child's sense of social confidence and self-esteem. If baby teeth are lost early, cosmetic appliances and space maintainers are available to replace them, or to provide space for the permanent teeth to come through.

At What Age Will My Child's Teeth Appear?
Parents often ask this. Following is a chart with approximate ages. Be aware that these are only averages, and that your child's tooth development may vary somewhat.

Are There Other Concerns?
Yes. Baby bottle tooth decay is the leading cause of decay and tooth loss in very young children. To avoid this, do not put your baby to sleep with a bottle that contains any sticky or sugary substance. (These include milk, fruit juice, formula or other sweetened beverages.) If the child must be put to sleep with a bottle, use plain water.

Another common occurrence with active children is trauma that may result from accidents, such as jumping off a diving board, falling over the handlebars of a bicycle, hitting a dashboard or tripping and falling. Bathtubs and coffee tables are also common trouble spots for young children's teeth. Teeth that sustain such injuries should be treated immediately by the dentist. In many cases further injury or tooth loss can be prevented with prompt care.

Sometimes very active children will have a healthy tooth completely knocked out. If this happens to a permanent tooth, save the tooth and any fragments or gum tissue. Soak the tooth in milk or water until help can be found. If no milk or water is available, the life of the knocked-out tooth may be prolonged by keeping it moist in saliva by holding it under the tongue, or between the cheek and gum. In many cases the tooth can be reimplanted successfully, if help is obtained within first hour.