For many parents, the subject of pediatric dental care can seem overwhelming and anxiety-inducing. But it doesn’t have to be! The best way to ensure a lifetime of good dental hygiene and healthy teeth is to instill in your child good oral health practices from an early age. This includes daily maintenance, such as brushing and flossing, but there is more a parent can do to make sure their child’s smile stays bright and healthy for years to come.
A Child’s Teeth Development
When it comes to forming a plan of action to take care of your child’s teeth, having a timeline for their teeth development is important.
As newborns, babies appear to have no teeth at all. However, at the time of birth, a baby’s teeth are already well developed beneath the gums. Throughout the first three years of a child’s life, their first teeth begin pushing past the gum line and eventually erupt, fully formed. The following is a general timeline of the order or tooth eruptions:
- 6-9 Months: Incisors (front four teeth on the upper and lower jaw).
- 12-14 Months: 1st Molars
- 16-18 Months: Canines
- By Year 3: 2nd Molars
By their third birthday, your child should have all 20 of their baby teeth. By the age of 5, expect to see some of those baby teeth become wobbly and eventually fall out as they make way for the permanent teeth.
Why Dental Hygiene for Children is Important
“Why should I worry about my child’s oral hygiene if their baby teeth are going to fall out anyway?”
This is a question we often hear from parents.
While it is true that a cavity in a baby tooth will fall out when the tooth does, allowing cavities to form in baby teeth can still have severe consequences for a child’s tooth development and overall wellbeing. The following are just a few examples:
- Painful: A cavity, if left untreated, can eventually spread and cause a child a great deal of pain and discomfort.
- Development: Premature loss of baby teeth can have permanent consequences for a person’s long-term tooth development. Baby teeth serve the important function of holding space for permanent teeth until they’re ready to come in. If baby teeth are lost early, permanent teeth can drift into the space, leading to crowded teeth, which in turn can cause a multitude of complications, including speech impairment, difficulty cleaning, difficulty chewing, and more. Often, crowded teeth will need to be corrected at the patient’s expense.
- Speech: Teeth play a big role in speech development. The years between a child’s birth and when they begin losing their baby teeth are crucial for learning how to speak and communicate effectively. Losing baby teeth prematurely can have long-lasting impacts on the way your child pronounces words, possibly resulting in the need for speech therapy.
- Expense: While expense dissuades some parents from taking their kids in for regular checkups and teeth cleanings, the cost of emergency tooth extraction, fillings, or corrective surgery can easily rack up a much higher cost, both financially and emotionally. We guarantee that staying diligent about your child’s oral health will cost you much less in the long run. It will also keep your child healthy and happy.
How to Maintain Your Child’s Oral Health
You should begin practicing good dental hygiene with your child as soon as their first teeth erupt. In addition to preventing cavities and plaque buildup, routine cleaning, brushing, and flossing from an early age lay the foundation for a lifetime of diligent oral hygiene maintenance.
We also strongly recommend that you bring your child in for their first dental appointment within 6 months of their first teeth erupting. During this initial appointment, the doctor will carefully examine the overall health of your child’s mouth, including:
- Tooth development
- Gum and tissue health
- Jaw health
This will help the doctor assess your child’s progress, and come up with a plan of action to ensure that their teeth remain healthy throughout their development.
Depending on the condition of their teeth, your doctor may also perform a gentle cleaning, which may include:
- Removing plaque or tarter
After your child’s first appointment, your doctor will want to schedule subsequent appointments every 6 months. While you may be tempted to skip an appointment here and there, remember: The first five years of teeth development are crucial; new baby teeth will appear every few months. Staying on top of your child’s oral health during this important time will set them up for a lifetime of healthy teeth and good oral hygiene. In the end, you’ll be thankful you made the time and put in the effort– but, more importantly, so will they.