Early Dental Care


Normally, the first tooth erupts between ages 6 to 12 months. Gums are sore, tender and sometimes irritable until the age of 3. Rubbing sore gums gently with a clean finger, the back of a cold spoon or a cold, wet cloth helps soothe the gums. Teething rings work well, but avoid teething biscuits — they may contain sugar that is not good for baby teeth.

While your baby is teething, it is important to monitor the teeth for signs of baby bottle decay. Examine the teeth, especially on the inside or the tongue side, for dull spots (whiter than the tooth surface) or lines. A bottle containing anything other than water and left in an infant's mouth while sleeping can cause decay. This happens because sugar in the liquid mixes with bacteria in dental plaque, forming acids that can lead to decay. Each time a child drinks liquids containing sugar, acids can attack the teeth. When awake, saliva helps carry away the liquid. During sleep, the saliva flow significantly decreases and liquids pool around the child's teeth for long periods, covering the teeth in acids.

Infant Tooth Eruption

A child's teeth actually start forming before birth. As early as 4 months of age, the primary or "baby" teeth push through the gums — the lower central incisors are first, then the upper central incisors. The remainder of the 20 primary teeth typically erupt by age 3, but the place and order varies.

Permanent teeth begin eruption around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until about age 21. Adults have 28 secondary (permanent) teeth — 32 including the third molars (wisdom teeth).

Infant's New Teeth

The primary, or "baby" teeth play a crucial role in dental development. Without them, a child cannot chew food properly and may have difficulty speaking clearly. Primary teeth are vital to development of the jaws and for guiding the permanent (secondary) teeth into place when they replace the primary teeth around age 6.

Since primary teeth guide the permanent teeth into place, infants with missing primary teeth or infants who prematurely lose primary teeth may require a space maintainer, a device used to hold the natural space open. Without a maintainer, the teeth can tilt toward the empty space and cause permanent teeth to come in crooked. Missing teeth should be mentioned to your family dentist. The way your child cares for her primary teeth plays a critical role in how she treats the permanent teeth. Children and adults are equally susceptible to plaque and gum problems — hence, the need for regular care and dental checkups.

A Child's First Dental Visit

A child's first dental visit should be scheduled around his third birthday unless parents have specific concerns earlier. Most insurance companies do not cover children until age 3. Parents should check to make sure their child has been added to their policy so they do not incur unnecessary out-of-pocket expenses.

We customize your child's first appointment according to her comfort level. We believe in a positive first dental experience. Every child is different and, if we accomplish only a "chair ride" the first time, that's OK. A pleasant, comfortable first visit builds trust and helps put the child at ease during future dental visits.

Good Diet and Healthy Teeth

The teeth, bones and soft tissue of the mouth require a healthy, well-balanced diet. A variety of foods from the five food groups helps minimize (and avoid) cavities and other dental problems. Many snacks that children eat cause cavities, so children should receive only healthy snacks such as vegetables, low-fat yogurt and cheeses, which promote strong teeth.

Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Tooth decay in infants can be minimized or prevented by not allowing infants to go to bed with bottles containing milk or sugared drinks. Our office is dedicated to fighting baby bottle tooth decay. Let us know if you notice any signs of decay or anything unusual in your child's mouth.