What dental milestones should every parent be on the lookout for?
Set your child on the path to a healthy smile.
As your kids grow, there are a lot of exciting dental milestones to look forward to. These events not only mark a new stage in your child’s growth, but can also signal that it is time to change your approach to dental hygiene and care. While your dentist can help you track changes and create a care plan, here are some major milestones to be aware of.
The First Baby Teeth
Since baby teeth eventually fall out and are replaced by adult teeth, it can be all too easy to assume that they aren’t important. In reality, they play a vital role in many areas of childhood development. Baby teeth help support facial bones and tissues, and allow your children to chew food and receive proper nutrition. Teeth placement also impacts speech patterns and helps children learn to form words. In addition, the space created by baby teeth helps make room for adult teeth to come in properly. Finally, a healthy smile builds strong self-esteem and confidence for a happy childhood. For all these reasons and more, the emergence of baby teeth is a big milestone.
Cleaning your baby’s teeth.
You can clean your infant’s gums by using a moist washcloth to gently wipe inside their mouth and massage their gums. The teething process typically begins between four and six months and causes red, swollen gums and increased saliva production. During this time, cold temperatures tend to be the most soothing, so chilled teething rings and washcloths can be helpful to have handy. Continue to wipe down their gums and try not to let them go to bed with a bottle.
At around six to 12 months, you will start seeing your baby’s first teeth. Once you see teeth, you can start using a small, soft child’s toothbrush to clean their teeth. Don’t worry about toothpaste at this point, and continue to massage the gums to help with the teething process. As they begin to learn to drink from a cup, be sure to limit the amount of juice and other sugary drinks they consume in order to fight tooth decay.
As they age, continue to model positive dental hygiene practices and make sure that you are helping them brush until they develop the motor skills necessary to do it themselves. Be sure to supervise them as they brush to make sure they get good coverage, and look out for white or brown spots on their teeth as these might be signs of decay.
The First Dental Visit
The first sign of a baby tooth should be followed by the first visit to the dentist. Your pediatric dentist can conduct a thorough examination to make sure your child’s teeth are coming in correctly and there aren’t any problems. From there, you should schedule a visit every six months so that your child can receive regular exams and cleanings.
Preparing for your first visit.
Keep in mind that your child may have some anxiety about visiting the dentist. Be sure to choose a friendly pediatric dentist, read them books about visiting the dentist, and set the tone by having a positive attitude about visiting the dentist yourself.
The First Loose Tooth and the Tooth Fairy
Around the age of six, your child will lose their first tooth. This is the perfect opportunity to celebrate a dental milestone and create positive associations around teeth and the changes they will be experiencing. A visit from the Tooth Fairy is a rite of passage and a way to put a fun spin on an event that marks another important moment in your child’s growth and development. Placing some money under your child’s pillow can take some of the anxiety out of this natural process.
First Orthodontic Evaluation
Most people associate orthodontics with pre-teens and teens, but pediatric dentists and orthodontists actually recommend that kids be evaluated by the age of seven. While your child may still have baby teeth, the orthodontist will be able to identify any issues with jaw growth that could affect whether adult teeth come in straight. This check-up will also include a closer look at your child’s bite to make sure everything is aligning properly.
Depending on the results of the evaluation, the orthodontist may recommend more frequent monitoring to track potential problems or early treatment to prevent more serious problems. At this point in your child’s growth, the dentist may be able to achieve results that aren’t possible once your child’s face and jaw have fully developed.
Around the age of 12, your child will develop what are known as the “second molars,” or “12-year molars.” These are the molars that are located directly in front of the wisdom teeth. Your child may experience some swelling of the gums and discomfort as the teeth make their way to the surface. Over-the-counter medications can usually provide relief.
As these molars emerge, keep in mind that they will be full of crevices and located further back in the mouth. This can make them harder to clean, especially for kids who may not pay close attention to their brushing habits. These molars are more susceptible to plaque build-up and decay. Once the 12-year molars emerge, it is more important than ever to reinforce good dental hygiene habits, schedule regular dental check-ups, and try to limit the amount of sugary foods your kids eat. You may also want to consider getting sealants, which help protect teeth and prevent bacteria from accumulating.
While exact timing may vary slightly, most kids reach dental milestones at about the same age. This makes it easier to know what to expect as your child develops. You can track these milestones and work with your pediatric dentist to make sure that your child is progressing on schedule and receiving the right level of care as they continue to grow. At Pediatric Dental Specialists, we work to provide parents and children with thorough and compassionate care so that kids can get set up for a lifetime of solid dental habits and a healthy smile.