February is Children’s Dental Health month! Your child will get his or her first teeth between 6 months and one year of age and will get 20 total baby teeth. Since baby teeth eventually fall out, many people think that they don’t have to take their child to a dentist. Nothing could be further from the truth! While it is true that your child’s front four teeth in each arch come out around age 6 to 8 years, the back 6 teeth in each arch do not come out until between 9 and 12 years of age.
Baby teeth hold the space needed for your permanent teeth. If a back baby tooth is lost too early, your child’s permanent molar may shift forward and not leave enough room for other permanent teeth to come in. When there’s not enough room, your child’s teeth will overlap or look crooked.
Baby teeth have the same problems as adult teeth. They can get cavities that need to be filled. One in four children have a cavity by age four years. The fillings of today do not have to be your father’s fillings with “novocaine” and a numb mouth. Today’s laser Dentistry can often accomplish a filling without using novocaine which may make the visit less traumatic for your child.
Cavities that are not filled can grow large enough to reach the nerve of your tooth and cause an abscess. Abscesses of your child’s teeth need costly treatment to avoid the infection affecting his or her permanent teeth. The alternative is removing your child’s tooth and placing an appliance to maintain space for the permanent tooth.
As you can see, it is best to find a cavity when it is smaller and can be filled. So when should you take your child to the dentist? The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends age 1 year for the first dental visit.
This early visit to the dentist allows you and your child to learn age-appropriate oral hygiene and to pick up tips like not putting your child to bed with a bottle that contains milk or juice. It also allows your child to have positive dental experiences to draw on before he or she needs a filling. You don’t want your child’s first visit to the dentist to be for a dental emergency—that’s traumatic for all involved, and the experience may stay with the child and cause fear or anxiety about future dental visits.
So start your child with good dental habits early in life and see your dentist regularly so that any problems can be spotted and treated early and easily. If you don’t have a dentist, please call my office at 440-960-1940.
*Note: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.
Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist who treats children and adults.
1320 Cooper Foster Park Rd. W
Lorain, OH 44053