Early Dental Care



Normally the first tooth erupts between ages 6 to 12 months. Gums are sore, tender and sometimes irritable until the age of 3. Rubbing sore gums gently with the back of a cold spoon or a cold, wet cloth helps soothe the gums. Teething rings work well, but avoid teething biscuits—they contain sugar that is not good for baby teeth.

While your baby is teething, it is important to monitor the teeth for signs of dental cavities. Examine the teeth, especially on the inside or the tongue side for dull white spots or lines. This indicates the initiation of the cavity process. Cavities can develop rapidly in children with prolonged exposure to foods and beverages containing sugar. A bottle containing anything other than water that is left in an infant’s mouth while sleeping can promote tooth decay. This happens because sugar in the liquid mixes with bacteria in dental plaque, forming acids that attack the tooth enamel. Each time a child drinks liquids containing sugar (such as juice, soda, flavored waters, sports drinks and even milk), acids attack the teeth for about 20 minutes. When awake, saliva carries away the liquid. During sleep, the saliva flow significantly decreases and liquids pool around the child’s teeth for long periods, covering the teeth in acids.

Infant’s New Teeth...Why Primary Teeth are Important

Healthy primary (baby) teeth allow a child to eat and maintain good nutrition. Healthy teeth allow for proper chewing and eating, provide space for and guide the eruption of the permanent teeth, permit normal development of the jaw, and effect the development of speech. The self-image that healthy teeth gives is immeasurable. The front four primary teeth remain in the mouth until 6-7 years of age. The primary molars and canines are not replaced until 9-13 years of age.

Since primary teeth guide the permanent teeth into place, infants with missing primary teeth or infants who prematurely lose primary teeth may require a space maintainer. A space maintainer is a device used to hold the natural space open. Without a maintainer, the teeth can tilt toward the empty space and cause permanent teeth to come in crooked. Missing teeth should always be mentioned to your family dentist. The way your child cares for his/her primary teeth plays a critical role in how he/she treats the permanent teeth. Children and adults are equally susceptible to plaque and gum problems—hence, the need for regular care and dental checkups.

A Child’s First Dental Visit

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend a child establish dental care by age one. While we realize children at this age are pre-cooperative in the dental setting, a visit to our office at this time can be extremely beneficial. We provide parents with guidance regarding many areas of oral health, particularly information on how to lower the risk of dental cavities, which remains the most common disease of childhood - five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. Chestnut Dental has established a more formal infant oral health program which includes a discussion with parents on topics ranging from tooth eruption to risk factors for dental disease, oral hygiene instruction, appropriate fluoride exposure, thumb and pacifier habits and tooth trauma. In addition, all infants receive a comprehensive oral evaluation, a risk evaluation for developing dental cavities, and if indicated, a fluoride treatment. By seeing children as toddlers, we hope to promote oral health and decrease the number of children developing cavities. An early visit to the pediatric dentist gives parents a "dental home" for their child. The most important part of the visit is establishing a familiarity and comfort level with the doctors, office and staff. A pleasant, comfortable first visit builds trust and helps put the child and parent at ease during future dental visits.

Good Diet and Healthy Teeth

The teeth, bones and soft tissue of the mouth require a healthy, well-balanced diet. A variety of foods from the five food groups helps minimize cavities and other dental problems. A diet high in certain kinds of carbohydrates, such as sugars and starches, can place your child at risk for cavities. Foods with starches include breads, crackers, pasta, pretzels, and chips. Sugars are often added to dressings such as ketchup and salad dressing. All types of sugars can promote tooth decay. Many snacks that children eat can cause cavities, so children should be encouraged to eat healthy foods like vegetables, low-fat yogurt and cheeses, which also promote strong teeth. Frequency of snacking creates greater exposure times of food and beverages on the teeth and can promote dental decay. Foods with sugar and starch are safer if eaten with a meal. Sticky foods such as dried fruits, fruit snacks and hard candies are not easily cleared from the mouth and teeth and have a greater cavity causing potential.

Preventing Early Childhood Caries

Early childhood caries (formerly known as baby bottle tooth decay) is the presence of decay in infants and young children. Once a child's diet includes anything besides breast-milk teeth are at risk for cavities. Tooth decay in infants can be minimized or totally prevented by not allowing sleeping infants to breast or bottle-feed. Children should not fall asleep with a bottle containing anything other than water. Drinking juice from a bottle should be avoided. Fruit juice should only be offered in a cup with meals or at snack time. Infants that need a bottle to comfortably fall asleep should be given a water-filled bottle or pacifier. Our office is dedicated to preventing tooth decay. Let us know if you notice any signs of decay or anything unusual in your child’s mouth.

When Should I Start Cleaning my Baby's Teeth?

Starting at birth, clean your child's gums with a soft infant toothbrush or soft cloth and water. As soon as the teeth begin to appear start brushing twice daily using a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush. Use a 'smear' of fluoridated toothpaste to brush the teeth of a child less than 3 years of age. For children older than 3 years old use a 'pea-size' amount of fluoride toothpaste. Remember that young children do not have the ability to brush their own teeth effectively and thus need the assistance of an adult.