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  • Writer's pictureDr. Nahid Afshari

Baby Teeth & Your Child's First Dental Checkup

Updated: Dec 6, 2018

When should you take your baby in for their first dental checkup?

This is an important question to ask. The answer is by age 1 or within six months after their first tooth erupts. This may surprise you. It is a common belief among parents that baby teeth do not need dental care. They think because the child will eventually lose all of their baby teeth they don’t need to take their baby to a dentist. However, baby teeth play a vital role in your child’s early years but also in their later years as well. Even though they are called “baby teeth” they will have these teeth for many years. The front 4 primary teeth generally last until 6-7 years of age and the back teeth (cuspids and molars) aren’t replaced until age 10-13.

Why are the baby teeth so important?

  • Baby teeth help your baby chew. A cavity free mouth will help your child chew his food properly which will help him/her with their digestion.

  • They help them learn to speak and smile. Teeth are important in learning to talk. Missing teeth in their early years can affect the proper development of their speech.

  • They hold space in the jaw for the permanent teeth to grow under the baby teeth. This is a very important function of baby teeth. While the adult teeth are forming underneath the baby’s gums, the baby teeth keep space available so that the adult teeth can grow in normally into the mouth. When a baby tooth is lost too early, the permanent teeth can drift into the empty space and make it difficult for other adult teeth to find room when they come in. This can make teeth crooked or crowded.

  • They assist the normal development of the jaw muscles. Just like other muscles in the body, a baby’s jaw muscles need exercise to help them develop. Their primary teeth help with proper chewing and this helps to build these muscles. Without well-developed jaw muscles a baby’s jaw muscles may not develop properly.

When should I start brushing my baby’s teeth?

As soon as the first tooth appears you should start brushing your baby’s teeth. From the time the first tooth appears until the child is 3 years old you only need to use a very small amount of toothpaste with no fluoride (there are many good brands of children’s toothpaste without fluoride). Do this twice per day or as directed by your dentist. You want to start off your baby with a soft toothbrush made for babies at least up until your child is two years old. You can even use a soft baby cloth. Consult with your dentist when you should change the type of toothbrush you are using.

If your child is from 3 to 6 years of age use a bit more toothpaste (about the size of a pea) and also ensure the teeth are brushed thoroughly twice a day. You want to supervise their brushing so you can make sure they are brushing thoroughly. You also want to make sure they do not swallow the toothpaste.

As soon as all baby teeth have come in at about 2 ½ years of age, they can start flossing. You can start teaching them to do it on their own but you should still supervise them to make sure they do it thoroughly.

What will the dentist do on my baby's first dental appointment?

We want to start your baby out with pleasant experiences at the dentist. Therefore, as your Fair Oaks dentist we strive to make the first experiences as pleasant as possible.

The first dental visit is usually short and involves very little treatment. We refer to the visit as a "well-baby checkup" for teeth. This visit gives your child the chance to meet the dentist and leave having a good experience. Here are some things I might do on a first dental visit:

  • Check all of your child's existing teeth for any decay.

  • Examine your child's bite and look for any potential problems with the gums, jaw, and oral tissues.

  • If needed, the dentist or hygienist will clean any teeth.

  • Explain to you oral health basics for children and discuss dental developmental issues and answer any questions.

Topics we may discuss:

  1. How to take care of your child's teeth and gums and prevent cavities.

  2. Fluoride needs

  3. How habits can affect the growth of your baby's teeth (thumb sucking, lip sucking,)

  4. Developmental changes and when to expect them

  5. Teething

  6. Proper nutrition to help build strong teeth.

  7. Schedule for dental checkups.

In summary, early care for a child means a great deal to their health. If you have a young child with primary teeth call us now and make an appointment and we will get your child off to a great, healthy start in life by ensuring they have healthy teeth.

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