Typical Dental Development for Children
Teething & Baby Teeth: The teething process for children can start generally anywhere from 4-10 months, but some babies are born with teeth and other babies will not get their first tooth until after they are more than a year old. This tooth eruption chart shows when you can typically expect your child’s teeth to erupt, or come through the gums. Children have a total of 20 baby teeth, and they are typically all grown in by about 33 months.
Some babies are born with some of their primary teeth already erupted, and in others, their first teeth may not come through until 12 months. We recommend that parents bring their children for their first dental visit by their first birthday, even if they only have a few teeth, or none at all. Sometimes teeth may not come in on time or at all due to certain issues in the development of the jaw, or the permanent teeth may be coming in earlier than expected. X-rays and regular monitoring can diagnose and correct most problems, and can even prevent the need for future treatment.
Parents should care for baby and toddler teeth by wiping the gums clean with a soft, wet rag or gauze, and begin brushing their baby’s teeth as soon as they appear with a soft bristled brush and water. Your dentist can review your child’s health and development with you, and recommend when to begin using toothpaste in your child’s oral hygiene routine. Typically this occurs around age 2.
Losing Baby Teeth, Growing Adult Teeth, and First Orthodontic Consultation
By age 7, many children have lost several baby teeth and have begun growing in adult teeth. The adult tooth eruption chart shows the average age children typically lose their baby teeth and grow new ones. Most of the time, baby teeth will fall out on their own, making room for adult teeth. Sometimes, however, your child’s dentist may recommend extracting a baby tooth or teeth because they may cause adult teeth to become misaligned, and may require orthodontic work to correct later on. Your child’s dentist will keep an eye on the growth and development of your child’s face and jaw, as well as the eruption of their permanent teeth and loss of baby teeth.
According to the American Association of Orthodontists, children should have their first orthodontic check-up by age 7. An orthodontic consultation can help spot any potential issues with the bite and jaw alignment, and determine if any treatment can be provided to help encourage proper alignment early on, before issues become more severe or require orthodontic treatment interventions such as braces.
Children may desire more independence when it comes to their oral hygiene routine at home. However, it is important to supervise younger children during their routine, checking to make sure their teeth are clean, and even brushing for them if needed.
Common Pediatric Dental Procedures
Regular Dental Checkups and Cleanings
Like adults, children should have regular checkup and cleaning visits every 6 months, starting at age 1. Regular visits are critical for children because they are growing and developing rapidly. Your child’s dentist will be able to monitor development, provide regular cleanings to help prevent decay and cavities, and identify issues that may require orthodontic or other intervention, which can help to avoid the need for more involved and costly treatment in the future.
Pediatric Dental Sealants
Dental sealants act as a barrier to prevent cavities. Sealants are made of a plastic material, and are usually applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where decay occurs most often. Dental sealants protect these surfaces by keeping plaque and bacteria out.
Pediatric Pulpotomy (Baby Tooth Root Canal)
A pulpotomy is the surgical removal of an inflamed pulp chamber in a child’s tooth that has been compromised due to untreated cavities and decay. Bacteria must be removed from the pulp chamber inside the child’s tooth in order to prevent or alleviate an abscess or infection. A pulpotomy is commonly referred to as a “baby tooth root canal.”
Pediatric Space Maintainers
A space maintainer is a common pediatric dental treatment option. It is an appliance that is custom-made by a dentist or orthodontist in acrylic or metal material. It can be either removable or cemented in a child’s mouth. The job of a space maintainer is to keep the space between two or more baby teeth open to allow the permanent tooth to erupt and come into place.
Space maintainers are an important treatment option for children because they can help reduce or even eliminate the need for future orthodontic work such as braces later on in your child’s life.
Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas) and Conscious Sedation for Children
Nitrous Oxide, also known as “laughing gas,” is a safe and effective conscious sedation technique used to help both adults and children feel relaxed, relieve dental anxiety, and help make certain dental procedures easy and stress-free for patients. Nitrous oxide may also be used in combinations with other sedative agents. Nitrous oxide is perhaps the safest sedative in dentistry and is well tolerated by most patients. It has a rapid onset, is reversible, can be adjusted in various concentrations and is non-allergenic. The patient remains fully conscious and maintains all natural reflexes when breathing nitrous oxide/oxygen.