When you have a child – especially your first – everything is new and wonderful! In many instances, you simply don’t know what to expect, so each day brings something amazing and different. From the first coo to those first incredible steps, everything about that little one is miraculous. And that includes those tiny little teeth that may arrive when you least expect them.
As a parent of a little one, it’s important to teach good dental health from the earliest stages of life when those tiny teeth first appear. It’s never too early to stress that taking care of the teeth and gums is essential to your child’s overall well-being, but it’s likely that you have a few questions about how to do that and what to expect as your baby continues to grow into a toddler and beyond.
There is no hard and fast timeline as to the appearance of your child’s baby teeth but, in general, the first ones usually push through somewhere between 6 and 8 months old. You may not be able to see them in their entirety by 6 months, but you will feel them, especially if you’re a breast-feeding mom.
You’ll also likely note some fussiness in your child, caused by teething pain. Your baby will probably take every opportunity to put things in his or her mouth to help relieve that pain and will welcome any sort of teething device that soothes his/her gums.
A set of baby teeth includes 20 teeth in total, all of which should arrive between about 6 months and 3 years old, though some children will not be on this particular schedule. That’s okay! As long as your pediatric dentist hasn’t observed any problems, it’s okay if your child’s teeth come earlier or later.
Remember, not all children are the same, but if you are concerned, be sure to tell your pediatric dentist in Anchorage about what’s bothering you.
Typically, two teeth on the bottom front followed by two teeth in the upper front portion of the mouth will appear first. These are called incisors. More front teeth will follow and the molars (back teeth) will appear later. Typically, all baby teeth – as we mentioned – come in by about 3 years-old.
Just as the incisors are the first teeth to appear, they’ll also be the first to fall out. Expect that to begin to happen between the ages of 6 and 7 years-old. The molars and canines, however, won’t fall out until between the ages of about 9 and 13. That’s why many children need to have some baby teeth pulled before getting braces or other orthodontic appliances.
One your baby is about 2 years-old, it’s okay to use a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a pea) to brush their teeth. They’re still going to need help, of course, and will probably continue to need brushing assistance until about 5 years-old. After that, continue to monitor brushing to make sure it’s being done correctly. Help them get into the habit of brushing after breakfast and before bedtime.
While most pediatric dentists agree that breast milk is better than formula for baby’s teeth, both can cause “baby bottle tooth decay” if you’re not careful. To avoid this issue, be sure to remove the baby from mom’s breast when he or she is done eating so that milk doesn’t remain in baby’s mouth while they’re sleeping.
If bottle fed, the same protocol most be followed. If the baby is done eating, remove the bottle and NEVER put your baby to sleep with a bottle in their mouth. Milk or formula that remains in the mouth while the baby sleeps can quickly cause decay.
By 6 months old, most babies are able to drink from a cup with a short built-in straw or from a so-called “sippy cup”. Usually, it’s a new skill that kids love to learn and it will be better for their teeth as well.
Pediatric dentists recommend that children older than one year old use a cup exclusively,rather than a bottle. They might resist at first but keep trying!
While parents of past generations used to be encouraged to give babies apple juice or other juices, that is now discouraged because of the high levels of sugar in most juices. Not only can drinking large amounts of juice and other sweet drinks cause obesity, but they are simply not good for little teeth.
Even “no sugar added” drinks contain natural sugars, which can still cause decay.
So, if your child has progressed beyond breast milk or formula, regular cow’s milk and tap water should be the beverages of choice. Anchorage adds fluoride to its municipal water supply, so drinking tap water as opposed to bottled water will be better for your baby’s or child’s teeth.
Pediatric dentists in Anchorage and elsewhere have long been concerned about the effects of thumb sucking on a child’s teeth. As a matter of fact, statistics show that while thumb sucking is short lived for many babies/children, some 15 percent of kids suck their thumb past five years-old.
This habit is shown to distort the shape of the jaw and can cause damage to both baby teeth and permanent teeth. It’s important for parents to find a way to discourage this habit. Ask your pediatric dentist or pediatrician for some solutions that work.
As soon as you see your child’s first tooth appear, make an appointment with a board certified pediatric dentist at Anchorage Pediatric Dentistry just to make sure things look good and are going as planned. Of course, if you have any concerns, you can schedule an appointment for a consultation sooner than that.
In general, every child should see their pediatric dentist as soon as the first tooth erupts and no later than one year of age. Parents should continue to schedule regular appointments every six months after that, according to their dentist’s recommendations.
Regular check-ups allow problems to be spotted early and can help your child avoid tooth decay, which can result in cavities and other oral health issues.
If you are looking for a dental practice that specializes in treating children exclusively or need to establish a dental home for your child in Anchorage, please feel free to contact Anchorage Pediatric Dentistry at (907)562-1003 to schedule an appointment with one of our board certified pediatric dentists.
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