“Cutting your teeth” is a phrase used to mean gaining experience early on, often learning by doing. Parents will often say a child is “cutting his/her teeth” at the time teeth first start to come into the mouth. On average, this begins at age 6 months, though some children will get their teeth a bit sooner and some will get them a bit later. Most children will have their full set of 20 baby teeth by age 3 years. Strong, healthy baby teeth help your child to chew food and learn to speak clearly.
Despite what you might think, teeth can start to decay from the moment they come into the mouth. The most common reason for this is exposure to sugary liquids such as fruit juice, soda and even milk, breast milk and formula! So please don’t put your child to bed with a bottle! (If you must do so, make sure it is filled with plain water.) Do not dip pacifiers in sugary liquids or honey. When your child graduates to sippy cups, avoid frequent small sips of sugary liquids. Early tooth decay can destroy the baby teeth and even harm the adult teeth that are forming in the jaws!
Start oral care at an early age to build a lifetime of good dental habits. Wipe your baby’s gums with a wet washcloth or clean gauze pad after feeding to get them used to cleaning the mouth after eating. Begin brushing your child’s teeth after feeding as soon as they come into the mouth. (Use toothpaste designed for babies that does not foam as much and is not harmful if swallowed.)
Your child should see the dentist around his or her first birthday (similar to a well baby checkup). You may need to see a pediatric dentist at this age since not all dentists are comfortable treating very young children. The purpose of this first dental visit is to make sure that the teeth are coming in properly, identify any dental problems and discuss how you are cleaning your child’s teeth (you may have questions or concerns on how to accomplish it by this point). Expect that your child will probably fuss or cry during this visit. Continue to visit the dentist regularly. Early detection of dental problems makes them much easier to treat!
If you have a dentist for yourself or your family, asking there is probably a good place to start. If your dentist is not comfortable seeing such a young child, he or she can refer you to a colleague (whether a general dentist or pediatric dentist) who is. Each child is unique so what works for one might not work as well for another.
To learn more about Children's Dentistry, please visit the Patient Education section of the website.
Dr. Jennifer Robb is a general dentist who sees both adults and children. She has seen children as young as 2 years old in her office. If your dentist is uncomfortable seeing your young child and isn’t able to refer you, or if you don’t have a dentist, Dr. Robb is certainly willing to try to see if she would be a good fit for your child. You can schedule an appointment by calling 440-960-1940.