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What to Expect at Different Ages

what to expect at different ages

PrenatalBoy in green striped shirt smiling - Pediatric Dentist in Wenatchee, Ephrata and Cashmere, WA

  • Because there is a greater risk of health problems during pregnancy, mothers should brush regularly with anti-gingivitis toothpaste
  • Expectant moms should visit their dentist for a check-up early in pregnancy.
  • A baby’s teeth start to form early in pregnancy.
  • A nutritious diet and good oral hygiene will ensure that the mother’s and baby’s teeth will be healthy.

Ages 0-2 years

  • Clean mouth, gums, and tongue with gauze or a washcloth before teeth begin to appear.
  • Pay special attention to lifting the upper lip when brushing the front teeth and brush the gum line.
  • Begin a visit to a dentist when the first tooth appears and no later than 12 months.
  • Parents should brush child’s teeth at least twice a day, after breakfast and before bed.
  • Floss between all teeth that are touching at least once daily.
  • Use a child-sized toothbrush with a smear of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Signs of a healthy mouth include pink gums, white teeth, no mouth sores.

Eruption Of Your Child’s Teeth

Children’s teeth begin forming before birth. As early as 4 months, the first primary (or baby) teeth to erupt through the gums are the lower central incisors, followed closely by the upper central incisors. Although all 20 primary teeth usually appear by age 3, the pace and order of their eruption varies.

Permanent teeth begin appearing around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until approximately age 21.

Adults have 28 permanent teeth, or up to 32 including the third molars (or wisdom teeth).

Ages 2-5 years

  • Begin teaching preschoolers to brush by gripping the brush for the child and guide it around the mouth.
  • Parents should brush child’s teeth at least twice a day, after breakfast and before bed.
  • Continue to help the child to brush until at least years of age.
  • Use a child-sized brush that is easy to grip.
  • Increase toothpaste amount to pea-size as the child learns to spit after brushing.

Ages 5+

  • Brush teeth at least twice a day; after breakfast and before bed.
  • Teach children to brush their tongue to remove bacteria from the mouth.
  • Use a child-sized brush that is easy to grip.
  • Coach brushing until age 11 when most kids can brush on their own.
  • An adult should floss for kids under the age of 8.

Ages 6-12

  • “Mixed dentition” stage.
  • Eruption of permanent teeth may require decision about sealant application.
  • Dentist may recommend a fluoride rinse if child can spit adequately.
  • Activity in sports increases and the permanent upper incisors are greatest risk for trauma… consideration of mouth guards for sports.
  • Increased carbohydrate exposures and more challenges to control diet.
  • All permanent teeth generally erupted by age 12, except possibility of four 2nd molars, which may erupt as late as 13 years and the 3rd molars which erupt between age 17 and 21.
  • Orthodontic check-up by age 7?


Ages 12-18

Oral development frequently asked questions

Why take my child to a pediatric dentist?

Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. Following dental school, a pediatric dentist has two to three additional years of specialty training in the unique needs of young people, including those with special health needs. We limit our practice to the treatment of children only.

What age should my child stop sucking his/her thumb or pacifier?

Nonnutritive sucking behaviors are considered normal in infants and young children. Prolonged habits (usually after 36 months of age) may result in adverse orthodontic complications (i. e. crowded, crooked teeth or bite problems). If your child is still sucking thumbs or fingers when the permanent teeth arrive, a mouth appliance may be recommended by your pediatric dentist. Most children stop these habits on their own.

Can my child safely use fluoride toothpaste?

A “smear” of fluoridated toothpaste for children less than years of age decreases risk of any adverse effects of too much fluoride (fluorosis). A “pea sized amount” is appropriate for children aged 2-5 years. Parents should always dispense the toothpaste on to a soft-age appropriate brush and assist with brushing in pre-school aged children. To maximize the effects of fluoride in the toothpaste, rinsing after brushing should be minimal or eliminated.

When should I floss my child’s teeth?

Start to floss when the adjacent tooth surfaces cannot be cleansed with a toothbrush.

At what age should my child have their first dental visit?

“First visit by first birthday” is the rule. Oral health is integral to general health. To prevent problems early on, your child should see a pediatric dentist between 6 and 12 months of age.

Is it normal for my child to grind their teeth at night?

Bruxism, is the habitual, nonfunctional contact between chewing surfaces of the teeth. Approximately 1 in 4 or 5 children “grind” their teeth at night. Preliminary evidence suggests that juvenile bruxism is a self-limiting condition that does not progress to adult bruxism.

Is fluoride safe?

The AAPD and the AAP encourage the use of fluoride to prevent and control cavities. It is documented to be safe and highly effective to re-mineralize enamel and alter the bacterial metabolism of the microbes that cause cavities.

What should I use to clean my baby’s teeth?

A toothbrush will remove plaque bacteria that can lead to decay. Any soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head, preferably one designed specifically for infants, should be used twice a day, most importantly at bedtime.

What is baby bottle tooth decay?

  • BBTD (previously called ‘nursing bottle caries’) is now known as early child caries. It is a pattern of rapid decay often associated with prolonged nursing, bottle-feeding, or frequent use of no-spill training cups containing milk or juice.
  • Avoid putting infants to bed with bottle containing fermentable carbohydrates (i.e. milk, formula, juices)
  • Ad lib breastfeeding should be avoided after the first baby tooth erupts.
  • Encourage drinking from a cup by infants first birthday. Infants should be weaned from the bottle by 12-14 months of age.
  • Between meal snacks and excessive exposures to food or juice or other liquids containing sugars should be avoided.

If my child gets a toothache, what should I do?

Rinse your child’s mouth with warm salt water and apply a cold compress of ice wrapped in a cloth to your child’s face if swollen. Do not put heat or aspirin on the sore area. You may give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) for pain. Do not give children aspirin and closely follow the dosage based on your child’s weight on the bottle. Call our office as soon as possible.

How safe are dental x-rays?

With contemporary safeguards, such as lead aprons and digital x-rays, the amount of radiation received in a dental x-ray is extremely small. Even though there is very little risk, pediatric dentists are particularly careful to minimize the exposure of child patients to radiation. In fact dental x-rays represent a far smaller risk than an undetected and treated dental problem.

My child plays sports. How should I protect my child’s teeth?

A mouth guard should be a top priority on your child’s list of sports equipment. Athletic mouth guards are made of soft plastic and fit to the shape of your child’s upper teeth. They protect a child’s teeth, lips, cheeks and gums from sports-related injuries. Any guard is better than no guard at all, but custom-fit mouth guard fitted by our doctors is your child’s best protection.

What should I do if my child knocks out a permanent tooth?

First of all, remain calm! If possible, find the tooth and hold it by the crown, not the root. Replace the tooth in the socket and have your child bite on a moist washcloth or gauze. If you cannot replace the tooth in the socket, place the tooth in a container of COLD MILK and take it and your child to us immediately! The faster you act, the better chance we will be able to save the tooth.

How can I help my baby through teething?

Sore gums when teeth erupt are a normal part of the eruption process. The discomfort may be eased with teething biscuits, toast, or cool teething rings.

Why do you fix cavities in baby teeth when they will eventually fall out?

Primary or “baby teeth” are important for many reasons. Not only do they help children speak clearly and chew naturally, they also aid in forming a path that permanent teeth follow when they are ready to erupt. Some of them are necessary until a child is 12 years old or longer. Pain, infection of the gums and jaws, impairment of general health, and orthodontic concerns are just a few of the problems that can happen when baby teeth are neglected. Also, because tooth decay is really an infection and will spread, decay on baby teeth can cause decay on permanent teeth. Proper care of baby teeth is instrumental for the overall health of your child.

What causes tooth decay?

Four things are necessary for cavities to form – a tooth, bacteria, sugar or other carbohydrates, and time. Dental plaque is a thin, sticky deposit of bacteria that constantly forms on everyone’s teeth. When you eat, the sugars in your food cause the bacteria in plaque to produce acid that attack the tooth enamel. With time and repeated acid attacks, the enamel breaks down and a cavity forms.

Can I stay in the room with my child during his/her visit?

We welcome parents to remain with their child throughout their visit to our practice, with the exception of general anesthesia. Parents are not allowed into hospital operating rooms or surgical center anesthesia suites.

How do I make my child’s diet safe for his/her teeth?

Make sure your child has a balanced diet, including one serving each of: fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals, mild and dairy products, and meat fish and eggs. Limiting the servings of sugars and starches will also aid in protecting your child’s teeth from decay. You can also ask your pediatric dentist to help you select foods that protect your children’s teeth.

How do dental sealants work?

Sealants work by filling in the crevasses on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. This shuts out food particles that could get caught in the teeth, causing cavities. The application is fast and comfortable and can effectively protect teeth for many years.



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Wenatchee WA 98801
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