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Here are answers to some common questions parents may have about their child’s dental health and development:

Ages & stages in dental development

  • Babies typically start teething at around 4 months.
  • The two bottom teeth usually come in at around 6 months, followed by the two top teeth 4 to 8 weeks later.
  • There are a small number of babies who don’t get their first teeth intil after they turn one, so don’t panic if your child’s teeth are a little late.
  • After teeth start coming in tyour child should get one or two teeth each month.
  • By the time a child is two or three years old they should have all 20 baby teeth.
  • Kids typically begin to loose their baby teeth between the ages of five and seven. The earlier a child’s teeth come in, the sooner they are likely to loose them. The four permanent molars typically make an appearance around age six.

The importance of baby teeth

Many parents assume that baby teeth aren’t all that important, since they are going to fall out anyway., but this isn’t quite true. Baby teeth can help the new teeth develop properly and come in straight, and a child’s dental habits also set the tone for the environment that permanent teeth come into. “When permanent teeth come into an environment where the baby teeth have already decayed, the same bacteria will attack the new teeth,” says Burton Edelstein, professor of dental health policy at Columbia University (Sheehan, 20013)

Common questions about dental health for children

At what age should a child first see the dentist?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that your child visit the dentist by their first birthday. Yet a National Poll on Children’s Health survey in 2012 found that only 23% of 1-year-olds and 44% of 2-year-olds had been to the dentist. So if your child has not been yet, you should try to schedule an appointment. Although they’ve barely had time to get their teeth in, let alone ware them out, there are other dental and gum conditions that might arise, so it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment to ensure nothing is amiss.

At what age can children brush their teeth on their own?

Many parents are surprised to learn that children don’t have the dexterity to truly do a good job brushing their teeth on their own until they can write in cursive, or around age seven. Before then, it’s tough for them to get those hard to reach places, and so parents should continue to assist their youngster. This doesn’t mean you should do it for them, but after they get started you should help ensure they get around to every angle. The best way to accomplish this is to stand behind your child and grasp your hand over theirs as it holds the brush. This way it’s easier on you since you’re not all turned around, and since your hand is over theirs going through the motions, it helps them develop the motor skills and dexterity to be able to do this on their own.

When should a child first start brushing and flossing?

It’s a good idea for parents to begin brushing their baby’s teeth (without toothpaste at first, just warm water) as soon as they come in.  Begin using a small amount of children’s toothpaste once they are old enough to spit.  It’s also important to begin flossing just as soon as a child’s teeth touch each other.

How often should a child brush their teeth?

It’s recommended that children brush their teeth at least twice a day, and floss at least once. On the same token, brushing more than 3 times daily is unnecessary, and may even be counter productive.

When should a child first see an orthodontist?

Many parents may notice that a child’s teeth are developing crooked shortly after they start getting their adult teeth. So how soon should a child see an orthodontist?  Around seven is a good age for a first appointment, say most experts, and if you notice a problem developing in their teeth, the sooner the better. Children who see an orthodontist before age 11 spend a year and a half less time in braces on average than those who get them at later ages. Plus, younger kids may be able to fix some problems or keep them from worsening with less invasive procedures such as palate expanders or partial braces on just a few teeth. Either way, the longer you wait to address a child’s crooked teeth, the harder they may be to fix.

My child has white spots or streaks on her teeth.  Is this normal?

Around 40% of teens will develop faint white spots or white streaks on their teeth. It’s a harmless condition that is caused by dental fluorosis – excess fluoride that was ingested at younger ages. An over-the-counter bleaching agent will usually resolve the issue, which a child can start using at age 13, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

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