Babies typically begin teething at six months of age. The bottom lower front teeth erupt first, followed by the two upper front teeth. Children have 20 primary teeth. In general, a child will have erupted all of their baby teeth by 2-3 years old.
When should I take my child to the dentist for his or her first visit?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children visit the dentist within six months after the first tooth appears or by their first birthday. The first visit will usually include an exam, cleaning, fluoride treatment, and a discussion about prevention, diet, and oral health guidance. When children start early dental visits and practice prevention at home, dentists and parents can work together to help children achieve the best oral health.
How often do I need to bring my child to the dentist?
For low caries/cavity risk patients, check-ups/recall visits are recommended every six months in order to aid in prevention of dental problems. High caries/cavity risk patients or patients in active orthodontics might require more frequent dental visits to maintain hygiene and gum care. It is always easier to prevent cavities than to treat them, so our Little Critter team gives you the best oral health practices as soon as teeth erupt. Further, decay or breakdown of a tooth that is detected in the early stages is easier and less costly to treat. Regular visits keep children familiar with us. Routine care builds patient confidence, whereas emergency treatment due to pain or dental neglect becomes more stressful for patients, parents, and our team.
How important are baby teeth since they are going to fall out anyway?
Baby/primary teeth have three main functions.
(1) Chewing: pain-free feeding directly impacts your child’s diet, nutrition, and overall health
(2) Speech development: teeth provide a stop for the tongue to pronounce sounds correctly
(3) Pathway for adult teeth: baby teeth are place-holders until the adult teeth are ready for eruption. Premature tooth loss from cavities/infection causes the neighboring teeth to move into the empty space and cause crowding. Baby teeth cavities/infection can cause permanent teeth to have higher cavity risk or damage them with discoloration/deformity.
If my toddler has a cavity, should he or she get a filling?
The earlier a cavity is diagnosed and treated, the less invasive the overall treatment will be. Over time, cavities can spread to adjacent teeth and possibly lead to infection. Infections can damage permanent teeth with discoloration and deformities. Dr. Keta will evaluate your child individually and give parents every alternative within the standard of care for the treatment plan. She strives to balance your child’s ability to cope with a procedure, the urgency of treatment, and possible damage to permanent teeth in her recommendations – and then, we make a decision together about the best way to treat your child.
What are sealants and does my child need them?
Sealants are hard, white, protective coatings that seal the grooves of the tooth chewing surfaces to prevent cavities. They block out sticky, sugary foods and liquids that get caught in the teeth. The application is fast and pain-free. Sealants are recommended based on your child’s diet, history of cavities, and anatomy of the teeth.
How safe are dental x-rays?
Dental radiographs or x-rays are necessary for your child in receiving the highest standard of dental care. At Little Critter, we limit radiation exposure for children by using lead aprons with thyroid collars and digital radiography, which emits 80% less radiation than traditional x-ray machines. Cavities, missing or extra teeth, and pathology/diseases can go undetected without the use of dental radiographs. With digital x-rays, your child’s images appear instantaneously on our computer, giving us a convenient image to analyze and refer to throughout the dental visit. One dental radiograph has 0.005 mSv of radiation, while a flight from NY to LA has 0.04 mSv.
Does my child need x-rays?
We usually recommend a first set of x-rays (4 images) when your child is four years old to check for cavities between teeth and development. After the first x-rays, low cavity risk patients take x-rays (2 images) every year and a half, while high cavity risk patients take x-rays every six months to one year (2 images). Our goal is to be as conservative with radiation as possible while upholding the highest standard of care for your children. Detecting a cavity early leads to the best chances of keeping your child’s teeth healthy.
What is the main difference between a pediatric dentist and a general dentist?
A pediatric dentist has two to three years of advanced clinical and hospital training following dental school specific to treating children, special needs patients, and behavioral management concerns. We are oral healthcare providers for infants, toddlers, adolescents, and adults with special needs. The Little Critter team works closely with pediatricians to provide comprehensive healthcare needs for each patient. Also, we have a kid-friendly office with pediatric tools and techniques to make dental visits an exciting experience.
Oral Healthcare At Home:
What should I use to clean my baby's teeth?
Use a small, soft-bristled toothbrush to adequately remove plaque and cavity-causing-bacteria on the teeth, gums, and tongue. Caregivers should clean the teeth at least once a day (most importantly before bedtime following the last feeding), but twice a day is always best. If your child is under one year old, just use water on the brush, and if they are older than one, use fluoride toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice). Your child may not be spitting well, but with such a small amount of toothpaste, there shouldn’t be much to swallow or wipe out.
How can I prevent baby bottle tooth decay and early childhood cavities?
Do not give your child a bottle to sleep with at night. These beverages will coat the teeth with sugar and cause decay. Feed your child, then brush his/her teeth before bed, with no snacks or drinks after. Avoid sticky candies and gummy vitamins. Your child should drink milk at meal times and water throughout the day, limiting sugary beverages (juice, soda, sports drinks).
Is fluoride good for my child?
Fluoride is an essential mineral in bone and teeth formation. It is naturally found in many foods, including leafy greens, potatoes, tea, and grape juice. Water fluoridation has decreased cavities immensely across the USA. The use of topical fluoride for prevention of cavities is well-documented. It is safe and effective in decreasing cavities by making teeth stronger and remineralizing/halting decay. We recommend using a fluoride toothpaste after age one. Use the size of a grain of rice (age 1-3) and the size of a pea (age 4+). Professional fluoride treatments are recommended twice a year and are administered as a paint-on varnish from the dentist. Research shows that twice yearly fluoride application significantly reduces cavities.
If my child has tooth or mouth pain, what can I do to help?
Clean the area with a toothbrush, floss, and mouth rinse. Assess if there is an abscess (pus pimple at the gums) or a hole in the tooth. Over the counter Children’s Tylenol or Ibuprofen (Motrin) are recommended for pain. Always make an appointment with us or a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
What can I do to stop my child’s thumb sucking and pacifier habits? Is it harming their teeth?
Thumb/finger sucking and pacifier habits are normal in infants as they self-soothe through teething. Most oral habits become a problem if they persist after age three, as they can cause irreversible dental and skeletal changes that may require orthodontic or surgical intervention. The amount of change is directly related to frequency, duration, intensity, and direction of the forces applied. Our team at Little Critter is happy to coach you through this phase with tips and tricks we’ve found successful.
What should I do if my child has a tooth knocked out?
First, remain calm. Second, locate the tooth. Hold the tooth by the crown, not the root. Next, determine whether it is a baby tooth or a permanent tooth. If it is a baby tooth, do not replace the tooth into the socket. For permanent teeth, re-implant by applying mild finger pressure. If that is not possible, put the tooth in a glass of milk and take your child and the glass immediately to the pediatric dentist. Dr. Keta is on-call to help you through this, so call us right away and we’ll walk you through it or meet you at the office.