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Best Dental Hygiene For Your Child, From Baby to Teenager

A smile is important at every age, but especially for children. The health of a child’s smile today can affect his or her oral health decades down the road.

Here are a few important things that your dentist wants you to know in regard to helping children of all ages have healthy teeth for life.


Pediatricians and pediatric dentists recommend scheduling your baby’s first dental visit by age 1, or when the first teeth erupt. Before your baby gets teeth, clean his or her gums with a soft damp washcloth after every feeding.

Once teeth start to erupt, use a small toothbrush to clean your child’s teeth with tap water or a rice-sized smear of fluoridated toothpaste (recent ADA recommendations have change from introducing fluoride toothpaste at a later age, to a much younger one).


Until your child can tie his or her own shoes, he or she needs your help brushing his or her teeth. While it’s fine to encourage independent tooth brushing, be sure to go back behind your child to get a “good” clean in at least twice daily.

Start to watch for teeth touching side-by-side. If they do, use a handheld floss pick to clean these areas, too.

School Age Children

By now, your child is likely brushing his or her own teeth and starting to learn how to floss. Adult molars will be erupting somewhere around the age of 6 (first set) and 12 (second set). Boys tend to get theirs around the same time or slightly later. When they do, talk to your dentist about getting protective sealants to prevent cavities before they start.


The day finally arrives when your child has a full set of permanent (adult) teeth. Encourage daily flossing, since these teeth will be with him or her for life.

During dental appointments, have your dentist evaluate your teen’s bite for possible orthodontic needs along with developing wisdom teeth. Because your teen’s oral anatomy is still developing, it’s the best time to intercept any orthognathic (skeletal) needs. By the time your teen reaches 18 or early-college age, his or her oral anatomy will be nearly completely formed.

Schedule a Dental Checkup Twice a Year

Be sure to take your child for a dental checkup and cleaning every six months. These regular visits allow your dentist to screen for common issues that can leave a lasting impact on your child’s smile. With great preventative care and oral hygiene starting at a young age, your child can enjoy a confident smile that lasts for years to come.

When Will My Kids See Their Grown-up Smile?

When your child is born, he or she has two sets of teeth in the jaw bone. These teeth started developing early on during gestation, and they continue to form until they’re ready to erupt through the gums and into the mouth.

Your infant will typically start cutting teeth around the age of 6 months to 1 year of age. This first set of teeth is called primary teeth, baby teeth, or even milk teeth. By the time your little one is three, he or she should have cut in the entire set, which consists of 20 teeth (ten per arch.)

However, primary teeth are temporary, and around the age of six, your child will start to lose them.

What About Adult Teeth?

As your child grows, the permanent, or adult teeth, continue to develop under the primary ones. Once they’re ready to make their debut, they will push out of the gum, forcing the baby teeth to fall out. Sometimes a child will lose a primary tooth prematurely (due to an accident or decay), but the permanent tooth won’t come in until it’s closer to its normal eruption window.

The Makings of an Adult Smile

Consistently over the next few years, your child will be losing baby teeth and cutting in his or her new, adult ones. The first permanent teeth to come in are the front four teeth on the upper and lower arches. Next come the canines (“eye teeth,”) and/or the first molars. The first molars don’t take the place of any baby teeth, as they erupt as the last tooth on each side, per arch. You may have heard these called the “six year molars,” due to them commonly erupting around the age of six.

A few years into this transition period, your child will lose his or her baby molars, and permanent premolars (bicuspids) will take their place. Your child will also receive his or her second molars, commonly referred to as the “twelve year molars,” behind the first set.

By the time your child becomes a teenager, he or she will likely have lost all twenty baby teeth, leaving 28 permanent ones.

There is one final stage of dentition, however, not everyone will experience it. Unlike the 28 other permanent teeth which developed in utero, the third molars, or wisdom teeth, start to develop around the age of 10 years. These teeth may begin to erupt out of the bone and gum in their late teens. A select few individuals will be lucky enough to never get their 3rd molars!

What Are The Benefits Of A Well Child Exam?

When you child is acting sick or unusual you are right on top of that and many times that ends in a visit to his/her Pediatrician. Your mind is put at ease (usually), your child may or may not be given medication for the problem, you go home feeling much better about your responsibilities as a parent, and within a short period of time your child is feeling better. But what about all the well child/baby exams that are scheduled for regular intervals: are they really that important? After all they are inconvenient, cost you money and often times you leave your Pediatricians office with information that you knew all the time; your child is healthy.

But what if you were not capable of determining the status of your child’s health; not out of lack of trying or intelligence, but a lack of familiarity with the normal course of things that should take place in your child’s development and growth. In other words, how do you know what you don’t know? Always a difficult question to answer about any issue. In this case there is someone readily available who has had many years of training in order to identify the abnormal among the myriad of normal processes going on at the same time in your child. Not only that but he/she has had the opportunity through many years of practice and observation as a Pediatrician to help identify the subtle factors that many might miss leading one to feel there is a problem there. He/she can then explain in everyday language what the issue is and what can be done about it.

Your Pediatrician is the best source of information about your child and how he/she fits into or out of “normal”. Let’s take, for instance, a major reason for well- baby/child exams, growth and development. You can immediately notice symptoms of a cold with runny nose, cough sneezing and possible some fever, but what do you look for to tell you there is slow down in development or growth? By the time you (as a parent) will notice such subtle issues, these might have been going on for some time, and the first reaction in parents to seeing these is to deny their existence- “not in my child”. This can result in weeks or months of delay in recognition and treatment. Sure you can read everything you come across about childhood growth and development and sure you will begin to pick up the most obvious factors but nothing substitutes for the knowledge your Doctor already has. Not only able to pick up these issues early but to possibly set your mind at ease about things you have noticed and worried about that are really insignificant. He will also keep an exact record of growth in your child to include height, weight, and head circumference (in babies) in order to spot early issues.

There are psychological and behavioral abnormalities that can be seen early in life that can begin to formulate a plan of action as your child grows older and bigger. An observation of family/, and child/physician interaction, can become very important to the trained eye as to “normal” vs out of the range of normal of a child.

Then there is the entire issue of protecting your child from injury and disease through the one on one counseling taking place in the office and the very important use of vaccines as directed by knowledgeable organizations such as American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC in Atlanta. All the vaccines recommended have been tested and retested over a matter of many years before being released for use in children.

As you can seed there are a huge variety of reasons why your child should not miss his/her regular well-child/baby exams, so try to stick with the schedule that is advised by your Pediatrician