Dental Patient Education


Toddler & Young Children's Care


By the time your child is three years old, he or she should have a complete set of 20 primary (or baby) teeth. And it is very important to take good care of these first teeth even though they are going to be replaced in several years by other permanent teeth.

Baby teeth are important to:

  • Help your child chew his or her food properly.
  • Help your child speak correctly.
  • Hold the spaces for your child's permanent teeth. If a baby tooth is lost, the permanent tooth could come in crooked.

Children may develop bad dental habits after their baby teeth appear such as thumb-sucking, chewing fingernails or grinding their teeth. In addition, young children love to eat sugary foods. Talk to your dentist or pediatrician about ways to discourage these bad habits.

Frequently Asked Questions

When will my child's permanent teeth begin to appear?

Your child will begin to replace his baby teeth with permanent teeth from around age six until age 12 or 13. At this time he or she will have a complete set of 32 permanent teeth. The wisdom teeth are the last to appear at around age 16.

How can I teach my child proper dental care?

Imitation is the best way to teach your child how to brush and floss. Children as young as 2 or 3 can learn to brush by watching you, although you should follow up with a good brushing.

Get your child into the habit of brushing at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and extra-soft children's toothbrush which are made especially for children. Use only a pea-sized dab of toothpaste and, after brushing, make sure your child spits out the toothpaste and rinses with water.

Once your child's teeth fit more closely together, you should begin flossing his or her teeth daily. By the age of 10, children should be able to floss by themselves.

And, most important, be sure to praise your child for clean teeth, a nice smile and good oral health habits!

Why are baby teeth so important?

Even though primary (baby) teeth eventually fall out, they reserve space for your child's permanent teeth. So if a tooth is lost too early, new teeth could grow in crooked.

At what age should my child begin to see the dentist?

When your child is about one year old, it's time for a visit to the dentist. The dentist will examine your child's teeth and gums, make sure that the face and jaws are developing normally, and show you how to clean your child's teeth properly.

Be low key about the visit; your child has no reason to be afraid unless it's suggested. And take cues from your dentist and hygienist-we're experienced in dealing with children and want the experience to be a positive one.

Should my child be receiving additional fluoride?

Fluoride makes teeth stronger and more resistant to cavities. Children who drink fluoridated water from birth can greatly reduce cavities. If your water does not have enough fluoride, your pediatrician or dentist may recommend fluoride drops or tablets for your child. If you have questions about fluoride, ask your pediatrician or dentist. Or call your local water district to determine whether your water supply contains fluoride.

How can we help avoid cavities?

Out of all age groups, children are the most cavity-prone. It's important that your child brush at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, and an extra soft children's toothbrush. Brushing removes plaque, the colorless film of bacteria that forms on teeth daily and leads to tooth decay and gum disease. A well-balanced diet and limited snacking also promote good oral health.

What should I do if my child's tooth is knocked out?

    1. Do not clean the tooth. Just place it in cool milk or salt water.
    2. Get to the dentist within one hour-the tooth may or may not be reimplanted into your baby's tooth socket.

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