Pediatric Dentistry and Pediatric Oral Hygiene
Though lost early in life, baby teeth (also known as primary teeth) play a key role in the development of healthy, evenly spaced permanent teeth. Baby teeth help keep teeth lined up right. And they also help kids chew and allow a child to develop proper speech patterns. Without good care, baby teeth can decay and cavities and infection can set in.
Pediatric Dentistry Basics
Pediatric dentists specialize in the care of kids’ teeth. A child’s first trip to the dentist should take place by their first birthday or soon after their first tooth comes in. This most often takes place by six to seven months of age.
This visit serves as a “well baby checkup” for the teeth. It lets the dentist find early signs of tooth decay, which can occur as soon as the first teeth come in. The dentist will also teach parents the right way to take care of their kids’ teeth if needed.
To avoid what is known as baby bottle tooth decay, adults should not let a child sleep with a bottle in their mouth. If they do, the sugars in milk, formula, juice, or other sweet drinks will pool around the child’s gums and teeth, combine with bacteria in the mouth, and form acid that will break down the tooth’s enamel.
Baby teeth are highly susceptible to decay. By about nine to twelve months of age, kids should drink from a cup. Adults should not be too quick to switch the bottle with a cup, though, since sucking helps to develop a child’s tongue and face muscles.
Forming Good Oral Hygiene Habits in Children
Teach your kids good oral hygiene habits while they are young. Within a few days of birth, begin to gently clean a baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad after every feeding. This will help to remove bits of food and stop the buildup of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria.
Once the teeth start to come in, brush kids’ teeth with a child-size toothbrush and water. After two years of age fluoride toothpaste should be used, unless your dentist directs otherwise. Always be sure that a child spits out the toothpaste and rinses their mouth with water when through.
Healthy Primary Teeth Mean Healthy Permanent Teeth
By the age of three, most kids will have a full set of twenty baby teeth. In time, these will be replaced with thirty-two permanent teeth. At about the age of five or six, baby teeth begin to get loose and fall out. This process goes on until the age of twelve or thirteen. By the teen years, a child will have twenty-eight permanent teeth and four wisdom teeth.
Baby teeth should never be forced out of the mouth. Spaces between the teeth may result in the permanent teeth being misaligned. If a baby tooth is knocked out, a dentist may call for the use of a spacer to maintain the gap until the adult tooth comes in. Once the tooth is loose, though, the child may wiggle it gently or eat an apple or other food to help it along.