Most pediatric dentists will agree that regular dental care should begin by age 1. Consult with your pediatrician about the care of your child’s mouth before the first tooth even appears. You should begin to brush your child’s teeth when the first tooth erupts using a small, soft-bristled brush and a tiny bit of fluoride toothpaste no bigger than a grain of rice.
Dental health is an extremely important part of good overall health, says Michael Lucas, M.D., a pediatrician at The Children’s Hospital at Saint Peter’s University Hospital and a member of the hospital’s pediatric craniofacial team.
“Dental caries, or cavities, are the most common oral disease seen in children,” says Dr. Lucas. When mothers care for their own teeth, their children are less likely to have carries. “By a mother getting her own oral health in the best possible condition before her child’s first tooth erupts, she can decrease the likelihood of the child getting caries,” Dr. Lucas adds. “Breastfeeding is beneficial to dental health too. It has a protective effect against dental caries. To also avoid cavities, do not give children carbonated or sugary drinks.”
Parents should cleanse their child’s teeth after feedings and never let any child sleep with a bottle in the mouth.
Here are six facts about baby teeth:
- Proper care of a child’s “baby” or primary teeth is very important, as these teeth hold space for the future eruption of permanent teeth.
- If a baby tooth decays or is removed too early, the space necessary for the permanent tooth is lost and can only be regained through orthodontic treatment.
- Infected baby teeth can cause the permanent teeth to develop improperly resulting in stains, pits, and weaker teeth.
- Primary teeth are important in speech development.
- Primary teeth aid in chewing food properly, promoting healthy nutrition.
- Most children begin losing their baby teeth around the ages of 5 or 6, with usually the front teeth first. They continue to lose baby teeth until the age of 12 or 13 when all of the permanent teeth finally come through, except for the third molars (wisdom teeth). These molars begin to appear around the ages of 17 to 21.
Visit the Saint Peter’s Better Health Library to learn more about caring for baby teeth.