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Home > Daily Dental Care > Pediatric Dentistry > Frequently Asked Questions About Children’s Dental Health
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Frequently Asked Questions About Children’s Dental Health


When do teeth appear?

At what age should a child visit the dentist?

Teeth begin to erupt at about six months of age. The tooth appears first and the root begins to develop underneath. When a child's mouth is fully developed there should be 20 teeth -- 10 on the bottom and 10 on the top.

However, the top and bottom teeth erupt at different times.

Top Teeth: The central incisors, or very front teeth, are the first to erupt between 6 to 12 months. The teeth next to them, called the lateral incisors, erupt between 9 to 13 months. The canines erupt between 16 to 22 months. The fist molars erupt between 13 to 19 months. And the second molars erupt between 25 to 33 months.

Bottom Teeth: The central incisors erupt between 6 to 10 months. The lateral incisors erupt between 10 to 16 months. The canines erupt between 17 to 23 months. The first molars erupt between 14 to 18 months. The second molars erupt between 23 to 31 months.

Under all this activity, the 32 adult teeth are forming. In fact, the adult teeth began developing when the baby was three months old.

At what age should my child see the dentist?

Children should visit the dentist for the first time between the ages of six months and one year. Do not wait for the child to be in pain to bring him or her to the dentist. Most procedures are pain free, and your child should know that a trip to the dentist can be a comfortable and fun experience.

Brushing teeth should become a part of a child's daily routine as soon as he or she can hold a brush. Parents should also swab infant's gums to prevent plaque buildup. Children's teeth should be brushed and flossed as soon as they erupt.

Although the enamel of a child's tooth is stronger than that of an adult, it is also thinner, so cavities develop more quickly. Children's primary teeth require as much care as their permanent teeth. Untreated cavities in primary teeth can adversely affect the development of permanent teeth. Such cavities result in a roughening of adult teeth, or may result in primary teeth that erupt with cavities.

Are baby teeth important?

Your child's primary teeth are extremely important. Without them your child cannot chew food properly and will have difficulty learning to speak clearly.

Children who lose their primary teeth too soon require a space maintainer until their permanent teeth erupt. Otherwise, the teeth will tilt toward the empty space, causing the permanent teeth to come in crooked.

What dental problems can a baby have?

The most important reason for an early dental visit is to create a practical prevention program. A major concern for the dentist is the presence of baby bottle tooth decay, which occurs when your baby continuously nurses from the breast or from a bottle of milk, formula, or juice during naps or at night. The sugars in these liquids pool around teeth, creating acid attacks that destroy the tooth enamel. The result is rampant tooth decay at a very early age.

Also, the earlier the dental visit, the better the chances of preventing dental problems. Children with healthy teeth chew food easily, learn to speak clearly and smile with confidence. It's important to start your child on a lifetime of good dental habits and that's why an early visit to the dentist is crucial.

How can I prevent tooth decay from breastfeeding or baby bottle?

Protect your child from severe tooth decay by putting them to bed with nothing more than a pacifier or bottle of water. Do not dip the pacifier in any kind of sweetened liquid.

When do children lose their teeth?

The permanent teeth do not erupt until the child is almost 8 years of age. They continue to erupt until the child is about 13 years of age. Girls' teeth tend to erupt a little earlier than boys'. The only teeth to appear after that are third molars, or wisdom teeth. They usually form between the ages of 12 to 16 do not erupt until 17 to 20 years of age.

Why are baby teeth so important?

Even though baby teeth eventually fall out, they are very important because they reserve space for permanent teeth when they come in. If a baby tooth is lost too early, new teeth may grow in crooked.

How do I prepare my child for the first dental visit?

Be low-key about the visit. Your baby has no reason to be afraid of the dental visit but can sense dental fear from a parent or other relative. However, there is nothing to fear. During a first visit, your child may enjoy a "ride" in the dental chair, play with a mirror, and generally experience the sights and sounds of the dental office. And relax -- dentists who are experienced in dealing with kids do not expect perfect behavior.

How do I make my child's diet safe for his or her teeth?

The most important thing you can do is make sure your child has a balanced diet. Also, check how often your child eats foods with sugar or starch in them. Foods with starch include breads, crackers, pasta and snacks such as pretzels and potato chips. Many foods contain sugars, including processed foods such as condiments or salad dressings. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich has sugar not only in the jelly, but probably in the peanut butter too. Limit the number of starches and sugars your child eats and make sure he or she brushes afterwards. Also, watch your child's consumption of soda pop because the sugars erode the enamel on teeth. Most important is that children should limit snacks during the afternoon and when it does occur, snacks should be those that contribute to tooth decay.

When should I start cleaning my child's teeth?

At birth! Early care acclimates the baby to a lifetime of good oral care. Begin immediately to clean your baby's gums with a clean, damp washcloth. Use a tiny dab of fluoride toothpaste if your dentist advises fluoride protection.

What can I do about teething pain?

When teeth begin erupting, some children may have sore or tender gums. Teething, which  may start around 6 months and continue until age 3, can make them irritable. Gently rubbing your baby's gums with a clean finger, a small cool spoon, or a wet gauze pad can be soothing. You also can give the baby a clean teething ring to chew on. Contrary to popular belief, fever is not normal for a teething baby. If your infant has a fever while teething, call your physician. Under no circumstances should a child be given a teething ring dipped in alcohol. This is dangerous to the child and is ineffective in relieving teething pain.

How can I help my child prevent cavities?

Children are the most cavity-prone of all age groups. It is critical that children brush twice each day and floss once each day to remove plaque, the colorless film of bacteria that forms on teeth and leads to decay and dental gum disease. A well-balanced diet and limited snacking also promote good oral health. Fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses provide important protection. And, of course, regular dental exams are important.

Why is fluoride so important for my child's teeth?

Fluoride forms mineral crystals in the tooth enamel, which protects teeth from the acid produced by bacteria. Very simply, fluoride keeps the bacteria from being able to attach to teeth. Fluoride is present in the water supply of many communities. It also is found in foods such as tea, fish and vegetables. Many studies show that children who drink fluoridated water have fewer cavities than children who don't. For a nursing infant, a vitamin supplement with fluoride in it is often the best way to provide the infant with the fluoride needed. Even if the mother is drinking fluoridated water, the baby will not get any fluoride. Ask your dentist what is best for your infant.

Should I worry about thumb-sucking?

That depends on the duration and the severity of thumb-sucking. In other words, how long and how severely does the child suck his or her thumb? In severe cases, prolonged thumb-sucking can create crowded, crooked teeth and bite problems, or malocclusions. Thumb-sucking is perfectly normal for infants and generally they stop by the age of 2 years old. If your child doesn't stop by the age of 4, consult your dentist.

When and how often should my children brush their teeth?

Dentists recommend brushing at least twice a day -- after breakfast and before bedtime.

How much toothpaste should my child use?

Parents should place no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste on the child's brush. Many children cannot adequately spit out the toothpaste after brushing, so they swallow it. Too much fluoride can cause a condition known as fluorosis, or discoloration in tooth enamel.

How can I be sure my child is brushing properly?

Parents should be brushing the teeth of their children under the age of 6 years, because small kids do not yet have the dexterity, or the desire, to brush their own teeth. Even when they are older, parents should continue to supervise and monitor their children's tooth brushing skills. Ask your dentist to demonstrate appropriate tooth brushing techniques.

What kind of toothbrush should my child use?

Most dentists recommend a soft brush with round bristles made of nylon and a flat brushing surface. The toothbrush head should be small enough to reach all of the sides of each tooth. Nylon brushes are most effective in removing the plaque from the teeth without causing gum irritation. The child's brush should be replaced every three months. Also, the brush should carry the American Dental Association's Seal of Approval.

What type of tooothpaste should my child use?

One which contains fluoride and also carries the ADA Seal. It is not necessarily for children to use whitening toothpaste.

When should my child begin flossing?

Children should begin flossing as soon as any two teeth touch. This generally occurs when the permanent teeth begin to erupt. Parents generally need to assist with flossing until the early teenage years. Again, check with your dentist to determine the appropriate method of flossing.

Why are sealants necessary?

When back teeth are developing, grooves are formed on the chewing surfaces. They are impossible to keep clean because the bristles of a toothbrush cannot reach into them. Therefore, pits and grooves are snug places for plaque and bits of food to hide. Sealants are clear, shaded plastic materials that can be painted onto these decay-prone surfaces of the teeth. By forming a thin covering over the pits and fissures, the sealants keep plaque and food out of the crevices in the teeth, reducing the risk of decay. However, children must continue to brush and visit the dentist.

How often should my child visit the dentist?

Most children need appointments every six months. However, children who are experiencing cavities or other dental problems may need to see the dentist more frequently.

If you need a dentist who is good with children, call us at 1-866-970-0441. We'll put you in touch with a great dentist today!

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