At Oral Health Associates, we strive to give everyone a healthy smile from our Green Bay, WI office. As your trusted family dentist, we offer a plethora of family dentistry services to accomplish this for each of our patients. However, when it comes to a healthy smile, the absolute surest way to develop one is to start with healthy oral hygiene habits at a very young age – basically, not too long after a baby is born. This is a critical period in developing a lifelong healthy smile so it’s important to set your child on the right track as soon as possible.
A child’s teeth actually start forming before birth, although it will take a little longer for them to erupt. As early as four months of age, the first primary (baby) teeth will push through the gums. The first to emerge are the lower central incisors and they’ll be followed by the upper central incisors. The remaining of the 20 primary teeth will erupt by the age of three, although their order will vary.
A common misconception of these primary teeth is that they aren’t important because they fall out at an early age. This is untrue – primary teeth play a critical role in the development of the jaws and for guiding the permanent teeth into their proper place. Infants who lose their primary teeth early will require a space maintainer (a device used to hold the natural space open). Without this maintainer, the teeth can tilt toward the empty space and cause the permanent teeth to come in crooked. These teeth also play an important role because in many cases, strong oral hygiene habits as a child will lead to strong oral hygiene
habits as an adult.
The first tooth will erupt anywhere from four months to 12 months after a baby is born, although generally at the age of six months. From then until the age of three, gums will be sore, tender, and irritable. We recommend rubbing your child’s gums gently with a clean finger, the back of a cold spoon, or a cold, wet cloth to soothe them. Teething rings will also work well, though you’ll want to avoid teething biscuits. Teething biscuits contain sugar that can sometimes lead to tooth decay.
Baby bottle tooth decay occurs when a child falls asleep while being breastfed or bottle-fed. The sugar in the liquid mixes with the bacteria in dental plaque and forms acids that attack the tooth enamel. This can lead to tooth decay. While the baby is awake, this isn’t a problem because saliva is flowing and carrying away the liquid. During sleep, however, that saliva is lessened and the sugary liquids will pool around the teeth. You should make sure that your child doesn’t fall asleep while sucking on a bottle that contains milk or any sugary drinks. If your child needs a bottle to fall asleep, use a water-filled bottle or try a pacifier.
While most parents wait until their child is a few years old to go to the dentist, it’s important to make your initial visit much sooner than that. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child’s first visit to the dentist be either at the age of one or six months after the first tooth erupts. Seeing as how the first tooth will generally erupt at around six months of age, the first birthday is generally the perfect time for an initial visit to the dentist. This visit will be important for a child to build confidence in going to the dentist and meeting the staff, however, the most important part is taking care of your child’s primary teeth.
One of the most important things a child can do to keep his or her teeth healthy is to maintain a good diet. The teeth, bones, and soft tissue of the mouth all require a healthy and well-balanced diet. By eating a variety of foods from each food group, it will help prevent cavities and other dental problems. Unfortunately, many foods that children enjoy eating are sugary and will likely cause tooth decay. Make sure you promote eating healthy foods that build strong teeth. These can include vegetables, cheeses, and yogurts.
If you have any further questions about our early dental care, please feel free to contact us and let us know. If you’re interested in visiting a family dentist, we encourage you give us a call at (920) 437-3376 or you can fill out our online appointment request form. We hope to hear from you soon and help your child develop a healthy smile for life!
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