The pathway to healthy teeth begins early in life. When a baby is born the child’s 20 baby or primary teeth are already present in the jaws under the gums. The first tooth typically appears on average around age 6 months to one year. By the time a child is 3 years old he or she should have a total of 20 teeth present. These are all baby teeth and all of these will be replaced with permanent teeth by about age 12.
Even though the baby teeth will ultimately be replaced with permanent teeth, the baby teeth are of vital importance. This first set of teeth obviously helps children chew, but these teeth also aid in speech and appearance. The baby teeth are essential to hold proper space for the permanent teeth. If baby teeth are lost too early the dental arches tend to collapse and the permanent teeth can be blocked from erupting into proper position. This can lead to future problems for the permanent teeth.
The American Dental Association recommends every child visit the dentist within six months of the appearance of the first tooth. This will basically be a wellness visit where we will check the teeth and review home care cleaning instruction with the parent. We can also advise the parent on any thumb sucking or other habits that may affect the child’s dental health.
Home care for an infant’s teeth should start early. When the teeth begin to erupt, some babies suffer discomfort. Rubbing the gums gently with a clean finger or a wet gauze pad sometimes helps with this discomfort. Some babies find relief chewing on teething rings. The infant’s mouth should be cleaned with a moist washcloth or gauze pad.
Usually the four lower front teeth are the first to appear. Once the first tooth is in place begin brushing using a slight amount of fluoride tooth paste in an amount no bigger than a grain of rice. Brush your child’s teeth in the morning and at bedtime. If the child wants to brush that is fine but always brush for him or her as well.
For children age 3 to 6, start using a pea sized amount of tooth paste. I suggest you continue to brush for them during this time while also encouraging them to take a more active role. Remember the child should not swallow the tooth paste. Now that the child has the full set of 20 baby teeth you can also use flossing forks to clean between their teeth. (Extra effort on this but worth it!)
As the child get older and can handle brushing on their own occasionally supervise to ensure proper cleaning. Healthy habits start early and can lead to a lifetime of great dental health.
Best to all
Jeff Efird DDS
About Dr. Efird
Dr. Jeff Efird has practiced dentistry for over 20 years. His love and respect for the dental profession continues to grow as he sees patients positively affected by proper oral health and quality treatment under his care. Dr. Efird understands a relationship with a dentist is a lifelong endeavor and values the respect and trust his patients extend.
Dr. Efird began his training as an undergraduate at UNC Chapel Hill. He attained a degree in chemistry before continuing his education and graduating from the University of North Carolina School of Dentistry in 1987.
Dedicated to expanding his own knowledge and that of his practice, Dr. Efird has completed over 1000 hours of continuing education since graduating from dental school. Over the last decade he has focused most of his education of advanced restorative techniques and implant restorative solutions. Much of the training has been associated with the renowned Spear Education center in Scottsdale.
A member of the American Dental Association, Academy of General Dentistry, North Carolina Dental Society, and Buncombe County Dental Society, Dr. Efird is committed to providing outstanding quality care to patients in Western North Carolina. He lives in Asheville with his wife and son, and loves to fish and build handcrafted boats.