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A Guide to Children’s Dental Health

When do teeth start to form?

Teeth start forming under the gums even before a child is born. During pregnancy, a woman can get her child’s teeth off to a healthy start by following her doctor’s advice and eating a well-balanced diet. A child’s first tooth generally breaks through the gum at about 5 or 6 months of age, but this can vary quite a bit. Some children already have a tooth when they are born. It may be a real tooth or an extra tooth. To find out, your pediatrician may have your child see a pediatric dentist. Other children may not get their first tooth until after 1 year of age.

What can I expect when my child starts teething?

When teething begins, your child’s gum may be swollen in the spot where a tooth is about to break through. To ease the sensation of teething, you can give infants a one-piece teething ring or pacifier to suck on. When they are several months old, they begin to put objects in their mouths and bite or chew on them. Baby teeth (primary teeth), help children chew food, speak clearly, and retain space for their permanent teeth that start to come in at about 5 or 6 years of age. Thumb sucking is normal in infants and young children. This should cause no permanent problems if not continued past the age of 5.

What is fluoride and why is it important?

Fluoride is a natural chemical that can be added to drinking water. It strengthens enamel, which is the hard outer coating on teeth. Fluoride also helps repair early damage to teeth. The fluoride content of local water supplies varies. Water that has low levels of fluoride can be a problem for infants who get very little fluoride from breast milk or formula. Infants who are not getting enough fluoride should start taking additional amounts at 6 months of age. These children should continue to take additional fluoride until they are at least 16 years old.

When should I start cleaning my child’s teeth?

Daily dental cleaning should start as soon as your infants’ first tooth appears. Wipe the teeth with a piece of gauze or a damp cloth. Switch to a toothbrush with a fluoride toothpaste as the child gets older. Because children tend to swallow toothpaste, put only a small (pea-sized) amount of fluoride toothpaste on your child’s toothbrush. Check teeth for early signs of decay. These will appear as white, yellow, or brown spots on the teeth. Genetic influence also plays a role in a person’s overall dental health. Infants should not be put to bed with a bottle filled with milk or juice. They have a higher risk of developing “baby bottle tooth decay” or “nursing bottle decay.” Children should learn to drink from a cup as soon as possible. Sweets like candy or cookies can also lead to tooth decay.

When should children be seen by a dentist?

Before the age of 3, your child’s basic dental care can be handled by your pediatrician. However, if dental problems do arise, your pediatrician may refer your child to a dental professional (pedodontist). Situations in which a pediatrician may wish to refer a child to a dental professional before age 3 include:

  • If the child chips or injures a tooth
  • If the teeth show any signs of discoloration.
  • If a tooth is painful or sensitive to hot/cold foods or liquids.

Children should get regular dental checkups after age 3 or when all 20 baby teeth have come in. Regular dental checkups, a balanced diet, fluoride, injury prevention, and brushing are all important for healthy teeth. Starting children off with good dental habits now will help them grow up with healthy smiles.



Information on this site is intended for Angel Kids Pediatrics patients only. Always consult your doctor before beginning, modifying, or discontinuing any treatment plan.

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