Dental Care for Children: When to Start?

Good dental care for children begins the moment they’re born.

Every stage of a child’s development is important, including their teeth. But as milk teeth don’t often appear for quite some time, and then take a while to develop, you might wonder when is the best time to make an appointment with the dentist and start dental care for children. And you might think there’s no real point in going to a children’s dentist during the early stages of tooth development, when baby teeth appear, since their teeth are going to fall out anyway, and be replaced by permanent teeth.

Many parents don’t realise the importance of baby, or primary, teeth, in ensuring that a child is able to chew properly and so gets the nutrition they need, as well as helping with their speech development and making space for the permanent teeth that will eventually come. They’re also important for a child’s sense of how they look and feel about themselves. Baby teeth start to appear around six months after birth and can last for many years as permanent ones appear, and so children often have both types at the same time.

This is why it’s vital to start good dental care for children at an early age, and it’s now recommended by dental authorities that parents take their child to a children’s dentist around age one but certainly no later than two years old, so that any potential problems with the development of teeth can be identified and rectified, before they become worse.

First Trip to the Dentist

You don’t even have to wait until a child’s first or second birthday to take them to a children’s dentist — you can do it almost as soon as they are born and have no teeth at all. The dentist will examine the child’s mouth and advise on how to care for their teeth as they start to show — and how to deal with teething, which can be both distressing and painful for the child and their parents, as they might not know how to help their distressed infant.

Generally, the bottom front teeth are the first to come through, typically anywhere from five to seven months, and are followed by the top front teeth a month or two later. The teeth either side of the top front teeth start to make an appearance at between nine and 11 months while those either side of the bottom front teeth begin to ascend around a month later. At around 12-16 months it’s the turn of the molars, or back teeth, while the canines, near the middle area , come through around 16-20 months and, finally, the second molars, between 20-30 months.

That’s a lot of teeth to look after, and ensure they’re all coming in the right way and not causing problems. Perhaps surprisingly, though, many parents don’t take their young children to the dentist at all, according to one survey at least, and this puts them at risk for dental development problems and also tooth decay, given the high number of sugary foods and drinks many children regularly consume.

Good Dental Care for Children at Home

Dental care for children starts with encouraging them to brush their teeth as soon as they are able, and making sure you have a child’s toothbrush, which will be smaller and have softer bristles, and a children’s toothpaste with a flavour they might like. As soon as the back molars emerge you can gently brush your child’s teeth with tap water; by the time they are two, fluoride toothpaste should be used, as this will help to prevent tooth decay from occurring. In some cases, your dentist might recommend that your child brushes with fluoride toothpaste before they reach their second birthday.

Like everything with children, setting a routine is important and they should get into the habit of brushing their teeth twice a day — after breakfast and just before they go to bed. After they spit out the toothpaste, it’s advised that they should just leave it at that and not rinse with water, as it will wash away the fluoride and reduce the benefits of using it to help protect the teeth against tooth decay.

Along the way, as your child grows, they will surely have lots of cuts and scrapes, as well as possible damage to their front teeth from falls. You can also talk to your dentist about children’s cosmetic dentistry to fix any issues that arise so their adult teeth look great and your child has a healthy sense of wellbeing.

If you’d like to talk about dental care for your child, our friendly dentists at The James Clinic are available for consultation. Make an appointment now and put your child’s dental health first.