On top of all the other doctor appointments your infant needs, do they need to visit the dentist, too? Caring for the teeth and gums begins at a very young age — even before your babies get their first teeth. If you have an infant at home, here’s what you need to know about their smiles and when they should take their first trip to the dentist.
The Development of Baby Teeth
When babies are born, they typically have about 20 primary teeth, also known as baby teeth. These teeth will begin to erupt through the gums around 6 months of age and will usually all appear by the time the child is 2 to 3 years old. Babies are born with four of each of the following types of teeth:
- Second molars
- First molars
- Canine teeth
- Lateral incisors
- Central incisors
In the upper jaw, there is one set of teeth on each side, and same with the lower jaw. The teeth in the center of the bottom jaw often appear first, usually around 4 to 10 months of age. However, it’s important to note that every child is different. There is no need for worry if your baby’s teeth appear sooner or later than the average timeline. If you’re concerned, Young Family Dental is here to talk through your concerns.
Can Children Have Tooth Decay?
Unfortunately, in the United States, tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases in children today. When a child has tooth decay that goes untreated, it can lead to toothaches, infections, difficulty eating, and can even result in long-term health consequences including poor nutrition and speech development. Further, children with tooth decay have been found to miss more school days and have lower grades than children who are decay-free.
A common ailment in infants is known as baby bottle tooth decay. Baby bottle tooth decay, also known as early childhood caries, occurs with frequent, prolonged exposure of the baby’s teeth to drinks that contain sugar. We often see this happen when a baby is put to bed with a bottle, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy baby. Additionally, bacteria that causes decay in the mouth can also be passed from the mother or father to the infant. For example, when a parent puts the baby’s feeding spoon in their own mouth, or when a pacifier is cleaned by the parents mouth. When these events happen, bacteria can be passed to the baby.
Do Babies Really Need to See the Dentist?
The short answer is: yes. Your child should first visit the dentist when they turn 1 year old or when they get their first tooth (whichever happens first). During this initial visit with one of our pediatric dentists, we will examine your child’s tooth/teeth, gums, bite, and oral tissues. After this visit, your dentist will recommend how often your child should be seen for a preventive checkup (usually every six months). While these lists are simple and hardly require a lot of dental care treatments, they are essential in building your child’s comfort with the dentist, and stopping potential problems that could cause them issues well into adulthood.
Caring For Your Child’s Smile
As a parent or caregiver, it’s important to understand just how to care for those small smiles. Even though children will lose their baby teeth, these teeth serve as placeholders for their permanent teeth. If lost too soon due to decay, it can throw off the bite, cause speech problems, and result in difficulty eating. Here are some things you can do as a parent to protect your child’s smile:
- Clean your baby’s mouth by wiping their gums once in the morning and again at night. Use a clean, damp cloth to remove bacteria (even before there are any teeth!)
- Brush your baby’s erupted teeth with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and water only.
- Once they’re a toddler, brush your child’s mouth for two minutes twice a day, with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Visit your dentist to learn more about fluoride supplements and dental sealants for children to protect their teeth.
Parents can also protect their children’s smiles by limiting the amount of sugar they consume in drinks, especially around bedtime. Further, limiting the amount of sugar in their diets, especially sweet or starchy snacks between meals, can also help protect their teeth.
See a Pediatric Dentist at Young Family Dental
If you are a new parent and want to learn more about bringing your baby to the dentist, call the Young Family Dental location closest to you to learn more. With five convenient locations in Orem, American Fork, Saratoga Springs, Riverton, and West Jordan, we’re here for you and your whole family!