Baby teeth may be temporary, but they play an important role in your child’s long-term oral health and dental development. That said, there are special considerations and precautions you will need to take, and a few things to keep in mind when caring for your baby’s teeth and gums.
At Oasis Pediatric Dental Care & Orthodontics, our dentists Dr. Nathalie Phaeton, Dr. Ki Youn Kil, and our pediatric dentistry staff offer general, cosmetic, and orthodontic services at our office in Falls Church, Virginia.
Why are baby teeth important?
The eruption of your baby’s first tooth is a special (and adorable) milestone. While every child develops at a different pace, most babies will get their first tooth at around six months, and usually by their first birthday. Most children will have all 20 of their primary (baby) teeth by their third birthday.
Despite the fact that they’ll eventually fall out to make room for the permanent teeth, baby teeth actually act as placeholders that ensure your child’s permanent teeth grow in at the right time, and in the correct alignment. Similarly, tooth decay and cavities in a baby tooth can have a negative effect on the health of your child’s permanent teeth.
On a practical note, establishing good oral hygiene habits and a friendly and trusting relationship with the dentist at a young age can help to instill in your child a lifetime of good oral health.
Baby’s first dentist appointment
The American Dental Association (ADA) generally recommends that parents schedule a baby’s first dentist visit within six months after the first tooth erupts, or by their first birthday, whichever comes first. Even though their teeth are still growing and will eventually be replaced by their permanent teeth, regular dental check ups are just as important for children as they are for adults.
In addition to basic and preventive care, our dentists monitor your child’s dental development for signs of potential problems. If there are signs of bite or alignment issues that may require orthodontic treatment down the line, they may recommend early intervention (while the child still has their baby teeth).
How to care for your baby’s teeth
You don’t have to wait until the first tooth erupts to start caring for your baby’s gums. To get started, gently wipe and clean your baby’s gums after meals and before bedtime with a clean washcloth or gauze. Just like adults, a baby’s gums can attract cavity-causing bacteria, even before their teeth erupt.
You can start using a gentle baby-safe toothbrush and toothpaste once the first tooth comes in. Be sure to brush all surfaces of the tooth, and only use a drop of toothpaste to prevent them from swallowing excess amounts of fluoride. You can start flossing once two or more teeth grow in next to each other and are touching.
For most children, the teething process lasts about two years, at which point all 20 primary teeth will have fully erupted.
For more information about your child’s first dental visit and caring for your baby’s teeth as they come in, contact Oasis Pediatric Dental Care & Orthodontics by calling 703-498-2440 or by scheduling an appointment online.