Dr. Shnall's Dental Blog
This is the second part of a two-part series discussing how to care for the teeth of infants and young children. If you would like to read Part One click here.
What Age Should Children Come in For Their First Dental Checkup?
The rule of thumb is to bring your child in within the first six months of the first tooth erupting. So if your child's first tooth comes in when they are six months old, then when they turn a year old would be a good time.
This first checkup is quick. We have a brief look to check that your child's teeth are well formed and that there are no cavities. Just as important, it is a chance to make sure parents have the information they need to ensure their child gets off to a healthy dental start.
However, life happens (and pandemics unfortunately happen) and it's not always possible to bring your child to a dentist right when they turn 1 year of age. But if you follow the advice in this article and in the previous one, you should have a good foundation of information regarding how to take care of your baby's teeth.
Can A Young Baby Develop Cavities?
Infants indeed can develop cavities.
Here are a few ways to prevent this:
If a baby or young child child is allowed to suck on a bottle of milk or juice for long periods of time outside of meal or snack time, the bacteria on the child's teeth will convert the natural sugars found in milk or juice into acid which then penetrates the enamel and starts the cavity process. Over time this can result in a condition called "baby bottle caries". This is where a baby has cavities in many and sometimes every one of their teeth. This could require a baby needing a lot of dental work (multiple fillings, crowns and/or extractions).
Even if your baby is no longer bottle feeding, extensive cavities can also result if a toddler or young child is allowed walk around the house for hours a day with a cup of milk or juice, taking sips whenever they like. Milk or juice should only be limited to snack or meal time. If your child is thirsty and they want to walk around with a tap water in a cup, that's fine. It will not cause cavities and is much healthier for a child than juice.
When my children were ready to drink from a cup we used a simple cup with a snap-on lid, so they would not spill all over themselves. However, at the end of this article, I have included some links to articles that discuss the type of cup to consider using and the articles do raise some interesting points.
Of course candy, cake and cookies can cause cavities if given too often, and especially if the child's teeth are not brushed well. Dried fruit and foods like fruit roll-ups are sticky and contain either sugars or natural fruit sugars which can lead to cavities especially if eaten often.
Healthy treats or snacks like: cheese, nuts, carrots and fresh fruit are always a better choice for overall health and dental health.
I am including a good article from the website healthline.com that gives some healthy snack ideas for children.
Here are a few additional notes about brushing your child's teeth
In the previous article, I mentioned it's important for parents to brush their their children's teeth twice a day, from the time the teeth grow in until the child is around six years of age.
The best times to brush are ideally after breakfast and sometime before bed. I say some time before bedtime because if you wait right before bedtime and your child is too sleepy to brush the opportunity is lost. But that is just a thought for parents whose kid try to wriggle out of their bedtime brushing.
Despite the decline in cavities since the introduction of fluoridated water and fluoridated toothpaste, children in Canada, the US and throughout the developed world are still getting their share of cavities. This is partly due to a sugary diet but it's also due to children not brushing properly or often enough.
Sometimes children, because they don't understand the importance of brushing, will just skip brushing. However, this leads to serious consequences, namely cavities and gingivitis (meaning swollen, inflamed and sometimes bleeding gums).
Some children who come into my office with cavities tell me that they are only brushing once a day.
It helps to supervise children while they brush especially when they're young. You could make it a fun time and perhaps you could brush your teeth while your child brushes their teeth. Children love to imitate their parents.
Some babies and toddlers do not like getting their teeth brushed, but it is very important that you brush your young child's teeth, even if they fuss. It is one battle worth having and winning as the alternative is an increased risk of your child having cavities. Toddlers do grow up and it will get easier. Usually.
It is also important to brush a child's teeth twice a day. Only once a day is asking for cavities. The reason twice a day is better is that at the second brushing you have a better chance of brushing plaque or bacteria off the teeth that you may have missed at the earlier brushing.
How Often Should I Bring My Young Child to the Dentist?
As mentioned above, the first visit is recommended around your child's first birthday.
Thereafter, every six months is ideal. This helps dentists catch cavities when they are small. A cavity can get large if it is given 12 months to grow rather than if it was caught at the six month checkup.
I find that young children often do not require a dental cleaning when they come to the dentist although there are some children that do get some build up on their teeth that needs to be removed. As children get older, a 6-month cleaning is also beneficial. For children that are at high risk for cavities, they can also get a paint on fluoride treatment at their 6-month appointment. Again as I am writing this during the time of the 2020 pandemic, there will be children that are going to miss their 6-month checkup or at least have it postponed. However, it'll all work out in the end.
At What Age Will My Child Have All of their Baby Teeth?
Baby teeth start to grow in at around six months of age, but in some children they will not get their first tooth until ten months or later.
The two lower front teeth usually grow in first. It may take a few months thereafter for the upper front teeth to grow in.
Over the next two to three years, the remaining baby teeth grow in as per the chart I included.
If you have any questions or comments about this article I would be happy to hear from you. Please use the comment section below.
Ideas for future blog posts are always welcomed as well.
1. An article titled: "Why You May Want to Skip the Sippy Cup for Your Baby. Are sippy cups really the best cup to introduce after (or alongside) breast or bottle? Experts suggest a straw or open cup instead, and here's why."
2. An article titled: "Should your toddler use a sippy cup? Sippy cups are ubiquitous in toddlerhood. But should they be?"
3. An article titled:
Training Cups and Your Toddler’s Teeth. From the American Dental Association. Cut and paste the following link: