Why are primary teeth so important—aren’t they going to fall out anyway?
Primary teeth, sometimes called “baby teeth,” are important to your child’s health and development and should be cared for just as you would for permanent teeth. Primary teeth serve critical functions as a child learns to eat and speak. They are important for the normal growth and development of the face. In addition, they maintain space on the dental arch and guide the eruption of the permanent teeth. While some primary teeth are typically replaced around age six, the back teeth (molars) can remain in place until age 12 or 13. Without proper care, these teeth can decay and possibly cause toothaches, gum disease, and serious health problems. For these reasons, primary teeth are significant and require good daily hygiene and regular professional attention, just like permanent teeth.
When will my baby start getting teeth?
The primary teeth are forming under the gums even before a child is born! While it is possible to have “natal teeth,” where the baby is born with teeth already in the mouth, the primary teeth normally start to come in between four and six months of age, with the lower, center, front teeth (central incisors) coming in first. Permanent teeth start to develop under the gums around age three and begin to erupt around age six. Eventually your child will have up to 32 permanent teeth, including the four wisdom teeth.
What can I do for teething?
The vast majority of kids fly right through teeth eruptions with no problems, but teething can be difficult for some. When the back teeth are coming in, this can cause not only discomfort, but also fevers, blood blisters, and ear aches, which can simulate inner ear problems. To help your baby with teething, we recommend frozen bagels for them to chew on, so that the baby can gently work the gums to allow the teeth to erupt. You can also use Children’s Tylenol® or Motrin® to help your child be more comfortable. There are some topical analgesics, such as PM Orabase® that are also effective, but please do NOT apply aspirin directly to gums as this can cause severe burns of the tissue. If you have any questions about teething, please call us.
How about bottles and nursing at bedtime?
It is important to know that nursing a baby to sleep or putting a baby to sleep with a bottle of milk or juice can be very bad for her teeth. When a baby sleeps, her saliva production is lessened, so the natural cleaning mechanism for the teeth is not at work. Without this saliva, your baby’s teeth becomes covered in the sugars from the milk or juice. These sugars feed the bad bacteria that are in the mouth, creating an acid environment that encourages tooth decay. For this reason, we recommend cleaning your baby’s teeth with water and a soft bristled brush or washcloth before putting her down to sleep and after night feedings. If you must give something in a bottle to help her go to sleep, use plain water or flavored water without sugar.
How should I clean my infant or toddler’s teeth?
Clean your infant’s or toddler’s teeth with water and a washcloth or child’s toothbrush with soft bristles. It is recommended not to use toothpaste until he is able to spit it out and not swallow it. This ability usually occurs around age three.
Do you do early orthodontic evaluations?
Pediatric dentists are specialists with children’s dental development. Your child’s complete dental condition, including potential orthopedic (concerning the positioning of facial bones) and orthodontic (concerning the positioning of the teeth) conditions will be evaluated at every continuing care visit. It can be helpful to know that it is not unusual and in fact it is normal.
Is it a problem if my child sucks his thumb or uses a pacifier?
Orthopedic change can result from a prolonged use of thumb sucking or pacifiers, however, this is typically not an issue until age four or five. Sucking is a normal reflex for infants and, as you are probably aware, can soothe them. Children usually stop sucking their thumbs naturally as they get more active and begin to require both hands for their activities, like holding toys, climbing on furniture and coloring.
What should I do in a dental emergency?
We don’t call them toddlers for nothing! The typical coffee table is the perfect height of the upper front teeth for many children and for that, we see many injuries to these teeth in this age group. Look at the layout of your furniture and think ahead about what could be a bad situation for your child. We strongly recommend precautionary measures, like installing bumpers or removing items with sharp corners, to save a lot of pain and trouble. Establish a Dental Home for your child now, before something happens, and put the emergency contact number in your speed dial and next to your home phone. If your child experiences any facial trauma, please remain calm and consult with his dentist, because in many of these situations, your assurance is important!