Everyone has two sets of teeth during lifetime. The first set is called primary teeth, baby teeth, which typically begin to appear when a baby is between age six months and one year. Primary teeth help children chew and speak. They also hold spaces in the jaws for the second set of teeth, permanent teeth, to come in. There are 20 primary teeth, followed by 32 permanent teeth that will eventually replace them. Your child should have all his or her primary teeth by age 3 and will keep them until age 5 or 6, when they begin to loosen and fall out. This process usually lasts until the child is 12 or 13. Primary teeth fall out because permanent teeth are pushing them, and by about age 14 children have 28 permanent teeth. As for the additional four teeth, called wisdom teeth, grow behind the permanent teeth in late adolescence.
The eruption sequence of primary and permanent teeth is as follows.
How can I protect my child’s oral health at home?
Parents should provide their child’s oral hygiene until the child is old enough to take responsibility for the daily routine of brushing and flossing. According to American Dental Association (ADA) and Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), a proper regimen of preventive home care should include the following tips:
Clean your infants gums with a clean, damp cloth or gauze after each feeding
As soon as the first teeth come in, begin brushing them with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and water. If you are considering using toothpaste before your child’s second birthday, ask your dentist first.
Brush the teeth of children over age two with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Be sure that they spit out the toothpaste and rinse with water.
Help a young child brush at night, the most important time to brush, due to lower salivary flow and higher susceptibility to cavities. Perhaps let the child brush their teeth first to build self-confidence, then the parent can follow up to ensure that all plaque is removed. Usually by age 5 or so, the child can learn to brush his or her own teeth with proper parental instruction.
As soon as child’s teeth are in contact to each other, start flossing for your child. Because flossing can get rid of the plaque (a sticky film of bacteria) and food debris between the teeth. By the time your child heads to school, he should be flossing on his own. Ideally, you want your child to floss every day at bedtime. At the minimum, make sure he flosses twice a week.
To avoid baby bottle tooth decay and teeth misalignment due to sucking, try to wean your child off of the breast and bottle by one year of age, and monitor excessive sucking of pacifiers, fingers and thumbs.
Never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, fruit juice or sweetened liquids.
Avoid filling your child’s bottle with liquids like sugar water and soft drinks.
The best way to teach a child how to brush is to lead by good example. Allowing your child to watch you brush and floss your teeth teaches the importance of good oral hygiene.
When should my child first see a dentist?
Taking your child to the dentist at an early age is the best way to prevent oral health problems. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that a dentist examine a child within six months after the first tooth comes in and no later than the first birthday. A dental visit at an early age is a "well baby checkup" for the teeth. Besides checking for tooth decay and other problems, the dentist can show you how to clean the child's teeth properly and how to evaluate any adverse habits such as thumbsucking. Early dental visits will help to familiarize your child with the dental office, reduce anxiety and fear, and make visits much stress-free in the future.
You can find more oral health information in the following website links.
American Dental Association
Academy of General Dentistry
American Academy of Pediatrics
Teach your children how to maintain good oral health will benefit them for life. So start early!
Zhaomin (Zoe) Huang, DMD MS