Many parents don’t understand the importance of being proactive about their child’s oral health because the primary, or baby, teeth are only temporary. Starting the habit of proper dental care at a young age will encourage the same practices in the future. Also, having damaged or decayed primary teeth can cause problems with permanent teeth. Dental health for kids is especially important because baby teeth save space for adult teeth, a healthy mouth will help children chew and speak properly and it influences a confident smile. Keep reading to learn when kids start losing teeth, how to properly care for their teeth, and when to schedule their first dentist appointment.
How to keep your kids’ teeth healthy
0 – 6 months old
A tooth is at risk for decay the moment it appears in the mouth. Most babies will receive their first four teeth at around six months old but their dental hygiene should start well before their first tooth appears. Even though there will not be any teeth visible at birth, dentists recommend regularly cleaning a baby’s mouth to remove any harmful bacteria on the gums. This is done by running a moist washcloth or gauze pad along their gums starting a few days after birth and continuing until their first tooth appears.
6 months – 3 years old
Once your child’s first baby tooth comes in, it is suggested you switch to an infant toothbrush with soft bristles and fluoride toothpaste. Since children this age are unable to grasp the concept of spitting, you should use a grain of rice-sized amount of toothpaste to prevent swallowing. When your child’s teeth grow close enough together to touch, it is time to start flossing. Like adults, baby teeth should be brushed twice a day and flossed once a day to prevent tooth decay and to develop good oral hygiene habits.
3 – 6 years old
At this age, most children have learned or are learning to spit and can now use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste to prevent cavities. If your child is brushing twice a day on their own, it is critical to still supervise them to ensure they are brushing thoroughly, long enough, spitting out their toothpaste and flossing.
When do kids start losing teeth?
By age three, all 20 primary teeth have usually erupted. At this point in a child’s dental journey, the next milestone is when their teeth start to shed. The first teeth to go are the central incisors, or the front middle teeth and the average child loses their first tooth at age 6. However, there is no need to panic if your child is older than 6 and has not had a loose tooth. The speed at which a child loses their teeth does not indicate something is wrong, but communicating your concerns with your child’s dentist is suggested.
When kids start losing teeth it is likely they will shed in a similar order they grew in. Baby teeth fall out because the permanent teeth start to grow in, pushing the primary teeth out. This process happens naturally and does not require forceful wiggling or pulling. It is an exciting time when kids do start losing teeth but it is important as ever to keep up with brushing and flossing.
When should a child start seeing a dentist?
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a child should start going to the dentist within 6 months of receiving their first tooth or by their first birthday, whichever comes first. Many parents feel it is unnecessary for a child to start going at this age, however, it is important for several reasons. During the first visit, the dentist will check your child’s teeth and gums, examine their mouth’s development, discuss any concerns, and give valuable oral hygiene advice.
Taking your child to the dentist at this point in their life will also allow them to become acclimated and comfortable in a new environment. After your child’s first visit to the dentist, they will likely start going twice a year for a cleaning and checkup. Getting your child in the routine of going to the dentist every six months will help prevent fearfulness in the future, influence healthy dental care habits and help them to maintain their oral health throughout their life.
Dr. Cory Fortson, DDS began his educational journey by earning a BS in Nutritional Science from Michigan State University. He is a 2014 graduate of The University of Detroit Dental School and a third generation dentist who is proud to provide excellent dental care to the Lathrup Village community.
With his dedication to excellence and continued growth, Dr. Fortson has completed extensive continuing education courses in orthodontics (braces and Invisalign), endodontics (root canal therapy), and cosmetic dentistry. He always strives to create a comfortable atmosphere for his patients while restoring their smiles. Dr. Fortson’s goal is to take the stress out of dental visits by meeting all his patients’ dental needs while offering the most up to date painless treatment options to deliver a beautiful smile.