stages of pediatric dental care

starting dental care early

0-1 Year old

Proper oral hygiene and care are important things to start thinking about early on in your child’s life. Before your baby’s teeth have erupted, you should clean their mouth by wiping their gums with a damp cloth or a baby toothbrush. Babies don’t produce as much saliva as adults and need a little extra help in removing bacteria from the mouth.

You can expect their first tooth to emerge between 6 months to 1 year old. Once your baby receives their first tooth, you should begin brushing the tooth with a soft-bristle toothbrush and water until they are 18 months old.

It’s important to schedule your baby’s first dental appointment whenever their first tooth erupts (which occurs between 6 months to 1 year old) or by the time they reach their first birthday.

During this appointment, we will examine the mouth and tooth, look for signs of neonatal teeth, tongue-tie, iron stains, cysts, and other potential issues. Your baby’s first tooth will be cleaned and receive a fluoride treatment to prevent the formation of cavities. 

We will discuss with you how to take care of your baby’s teeth, evaluate their risk of decay and gum disease, inform you about the timeline of your baby’s tooth eruption, and any other questions you may have.

beginning regular dental visits

1-3 years old

Once your child has turned one year old, they should be visiting the dentist every 6 months. To clean your baby’s teeth, avoid using fluoridated toothpaste until they are 18 months old. At 18 months, a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste can be used and you should floss your child’s teeth once a day. 

Your child will be teething until they are about 3 years old at which point they usually will have all of 20 of their baby teeth. However, this can vary from child to child and boys tend to develop slower than girls. Regular dental visits are important for early detection of cavities, which can be treated with fillings or silver-diamine fluoride.

We recommend that you try to refrain from letting your child use baby bottles at night as this is when your child’s saliva production slows down and can lead to baby bottle tooth decay. Never put sugary liquids in your child’s baby bottle and try to cease the use of the baby bottle by the time your child is one year old.

It’s normal for a child to engage in a sucking action for self-soothing, whether it be with a pacifier or thumb sucking. However, when this behavior continues past 4 years old or when the primary teeth begin to erupt, it can cause long-term oral health and orthodontic problems. 
You should try to wean your child off of these sucking behaviors early, but at least by 4 years old. Working with a dentist can be beneficial in rewarding good behavior and discouraging the sucking action through positive reinforcement.

little girl hi-fiving dentist
little boy smiling

teaching dental care

3-6 years old

Your child will need assistance brushing and flossing their teeth until they are about 6 years old. This is when they develop the dexterity needed to do it on their own and learn not to swallow the toothpaste. However, you should still monitor them to ensure that they’re brushing properly at a 45-degree angle for at least 2 minutes.

Your child will be losing their baby teeth in the front of their mouth while simultaneously receiving their permanent teeth in the front and back of the mouth. Dental sealants should be applied to your child’s first permanent molars as soon as they come in at around age 6 to prevent cavities from forming in the pits and grooves.

continuing preventive care

6-13 years old

Your child is likely very active at this age and is at a higher risk of dental trauma and injury, especially if they play contact sports. Mouthguards can protect the teeth from damage if your child is prone to injury or if they grind their teeth. By age 7 your child should be brushing their teeth on their own, but you should still monitor to ensure they are brushing along the gum line to remove plaque. 

Flossing is also extremely important at this age because the teeth are close together or touching, making it impossible to clean all the surfaces with brushing alone. Orthodontic screening is recommended by age 7 to check for alignment or bite issues that can be addressed early on and prevent the need for extensive orthodontics in the future. 

Since your child will be doing their brushing from here on out, investing in an electric toothbrush can help reduce the amount of work required to thoroughly remove plaque and food particles. This requires less effort from your child and ensures that the teeth will be properly cleaned. 

Phase 1 orthodontics is most effective when undergone between ages of 7-9, and can include space maintainers, palatal expanders, limited braces, or extractions. Your child should have lost all of their baby teeth by the time they are 12-13.

Preteen patient with braces
Young woman at the dentist

reinforcing healthy habits

13-18 years old

Your child now has all of their permanent teeth and some or all of their wisdom teeth may be erupting, though these teeth can still develop until age 25. It’s important to monitor how the wisdom teeth are coming in and a panoramic x-ray of the entire jaw may be necessary to see if any problems could arise in the future due to partial impaction. If your child is experiencing pain, infection, or overcrowding, these teeth should be removed.

Your child will become much more autonomous at this age and may make some decisions that are harmful to their teeth such as eating an unhealthy diet, smoking, neglecting oral hygiene, or developing an eating disorder. 

These are issues commonly seen in young adults that negatively impact the health of their teeth and gums. If orthodontic issues are detected, braces or Invisalign may need to be worn to correct a misaligned jaw or teeth. 

From here on out, these are the teeth that your child will stick with for the rest of their life unless they lose them and need a tooth replacement. Regular dental cleanings and checkups are important to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

Dental Care at Harmony Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics

To schedule your child’s bi-annual cleaning and checkup, contact us at Harmony Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Maddy Goodman or Dr. Heather Sholander today.

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