As a parent, it feels like every day with your child brings a new milestone. First words, first steps — and first teeth!
Your child’s first teeth make an adorable addition to their smile. But some parents might think that it’s not too important to take care of those baby teeth since they’ll fall out soon.
This couldn’t be further from the truth! It’s important to take care of your child’s baby teeth just like adult teeth. Plus, caring for baby teeth is a great way to help your child learn how to develop consistent dental hygiene habits that they’ll carry into adulthood.
The more you know about baby teeth, the better you’ll be able to care for your child’s dental health. Here are 5 facts about baby teeth that all parents should know.
1. Babies are Born with Teeth
Babies are actually born with teeth — they just haven’t erupted through their gums yet. Infants are born with 20 baby teeth hidden under their gums.
Baby teeth start coming in around six months old, but some babies start teething as young as three months. Most babies get their first tooth by one-year-old.
The first baby teeth to appear are usually the two bottom teeth, the lower central incisors. Then infants usually develop their top two front teeth, the upper central incisors. But some babies may get their lateral incisors first.
If you notice your baby is fussier than usual, it might be teething. Teething symptoms can include:
- Trouble sleeping
- One flushed cheek
- Drooling more than usual
- Chewing on things more than usual
- Rubbing one ear
- Low-grade fever
If your child takes a bit longer for their first teeth to come in, bring them to a dentist by the time they’re one year old, even if they don’t have any teeth yet.
Early appointments with your pediatric dentist allow us to make sure gums and teeth are developing normally. It also gives us a chance to educate you on proper brushing for your child and discuss oral habits like thumb-sucking.
By the time children are two and a half to three years old, most have their full set of baby teeth. Then kids will start to lose their baby teeth around 6 years old in roughly the same order they came in.
2. Baby Teeth Help Children Develop
It’s a common myth that baby teeth don’t matter. But even though children will lose their baby teeth, they do serve an important function.
Baby teeth help your child learn to chew, speak, swallow, and smile properly. While your children are using their baby teeth, their adult teeth are growing under the gums. Baby teeth hold space for those teeth to eventually emerge.
Although your child’s baby teeth will eventually fall out, it’s important to take care of your child’s baby teeth the entire time they have them with brushing, flossing, and a healthy diet.
3. Baby Teeth are Sensitive to Decay
Enamel on baby teeth is thinner, making them more sensitive to decay and cavities.
Make sure you’re brushing your child’s teeth twice a day with a small amount of toothpaste. For children younger than three years old, use a tiny amount of toothpaste the size of a grain of rice. For kids ages three to six, use an amount of toothpaste the size of a pea.
Baby teeth also need fluoride to stay healthy. Fluoride is a mineral that prevents tooth decay. It’s recommended to drink water with fluoride — most tap water already has fluoride added to it. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children of all ages (including infants and toddlers) use toothpaste with fluoride.
Use the recommended amounts to limit how much fluoride your children swallow. The American Academy of Pediatrics also suggests not giving your children water to rinse with because they will be more likely to swallow. Instead, encourage children to spit once they are old enough to understand how.
Once your child gets to an age where they can brush their teeth themselves, talk about proper brushing techniques and supervise to ensure they’re doing a thorough job. As soon as your child has teeth that touch, add flossing to their routine once a day.
Besides keeping your child’s teeth clean, brushing and flossing baby teeth help kids develop healthy oral habits. If they learn to take great care of their teeth while they’re young, they’ll know how to continue taking care of their teeth as teenagers and adults.
4. Bottles Can Cause Tooth Decay
Using baby bottles is a necessary part of feeding. But bottles can be a source of tooth decay if you’re not careful. The sugars in milk can linger on teeth, causing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay, or “infant caries.”
You can prevent tooth decay from bottles by taking a few simple steps. After your child drinks milk or other liquids, have them take a few sips of water. This will rinse out their mouth and prevent sugars from clinging to teeth and gums. Then wipe their gums with a clean cloth.
Try not to let your child fall asleep with a bottle of juice or milk in their mouth. Holding a bottle in their mouth as they sleep can cause the sugars to stay on their gums and teeth, where they can cause decay.
Try to teach your child to drink from a cup at around six months old. This will help reduce the chance of tooth decay from bottles.
5. What You Feed Your Child Affects Their Teeth
Remember the old saying, “You are what you eat?” For children who are growing and developing, this couldn’t be truer.
Kids need a healthy diet — and so do their teeth. You can help keep your child’s teeth healthy by feeding them a balanced diet.
Feed your child teeth-healthy foods: meals and snacks with vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and fruit.
Avoid too much sugar – sugary foods and drinks can cause tooth decay in your child’s teeth, causing them to develop cavities that need to be filled.
Fruit juice sounds healthy, but can contain high levels of sugar that are unhealthy for kids and their teeth. Avoid giving your child juice until they’re older than six months, and after that, only give it to them occasionally. If you do give your child fruit juice, you might want to water it down.
Instead of fruit juice, give your child alternatives with less sugar, like fruit-infused water, unsweetened and caffeinated-free iced tea, or coconut water.
Keep Your Child’s Baby Teeth Healthy with Regular Dentist Visits
The best way to make sure your child’s teeth are healthy is by coming in to see a pediatric dentist. When you bring your child to a pediatric dentist like Children’s Choice, you have a chance to give them a positive association with the dentist.
Children’s Choice specializes in taking care of kids. Our offices are colorful and friendly to help your child feel comfortable. And if they feel some anxiety about seeing the dentist, we have plenty of ways to help them relax.
Once your child is here, we can look at their teeth and gums and make sure they’re developing correctly. We’ll also give you information on keeping your child’s teeth healthy.
Children’s Choice has offices across California, and we’re currently welcoming new patients! We accept all insurance plans, including Denti-Cal and Medi-Cal.
Make an appointment today for a free dental consultation for your child.