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Understanding Children's Dental Needs


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What is a Pediatric Dentist?

Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. A pediatric dentist has two to three years specialty training following dental school and limits his/her practice to treating children only. Pediatric dentists are primary and specialty oral care providers for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special health needs.

Why do we need to do treatment for milk teeth?

Primary or "milk" 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 can follow when they are ready to erupt. They also help in growth and development of jaw bones. Some of the milk teeth are retained in the mouth till 10-12 years of age. Untreated decay in your child’s milk teeth will cause frequent pain, swellings, eating difficulties, loss of concentration, school absenteeism, and nutritional problems.


When will my child start getting her teeth?

At about 6-8 months, the two lower front teeth (central incisors) will erupt, followed shortly by the two upper central incisors. The remainder of the baby teeth appears during the next 18 to 24 months. By 2 to 3 years, all 20 of the primary teeth should be present.

The first permanent teeth begin to erupt at about age five to six and include molars behind the back baby teeth along with lower central incisors. Some permanent teeth replace baby teeth and some don’t. This process will continue until approximately age fourteen.

The pace and order of their eruption may vary, so don’t be alarmed if some teeth are a few months early or late. All children have unique eruption patterns.

Primary teeth eruption chart

Permanent teeth eruption chart


How can I help my child through teething stage?

Sore gums are part of the normal eruption process of milk teeth. Child does become cranky, salivates a lot causing drooling and tries to put fingers or any other objects in the mouth. The discomfort is eased for some children by use of a refrigerated teething ring. If the discomfort is severe, please seek dentist’s consultation, who may prescribe some locally applied gels or pain relieving medicine. If your child has fever or diarrhea, it may not be directly related to teething and it is advisable that you take your child to a pediatrician.


At what age should we start cleaning our child’s teeth?

The sooner the better! Starting at birth, clean your child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water. Parents should use a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste to brush baby teeth twice daily as soon as they erupt and a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush. Once children are 3 to 6 years old, then the amount should be increased to a pea-size dollop and perform or assist your child’s tooth brushing. Remember that young children do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively.  Children should spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing. 


What causes dental decay or cavities?

Certain types of bacteria/germs live naturally in our mouths. When these bacteria come into contact with sugary foods left behind on our teeth, they produce acids. These acids attack the tooth enamel (outer, protective layer) and removing calcium and making the tooth weak. Finally the weak enamel breaks down creating holes or cavities.


How can I prevent decay caused by feeding?

Avoid nursing children to sleep or putting anything other than water in their bed-time bottle. Also, learn the proper way to brush and floss your child's teeth. Take your child to a pediatric dentist regularly to have his/her teeth and gums checked. The first dental visit should be scheduled before your child's first birthday.


How often should I take my child to see a dentist?

A check-up every 3 to 6 months is recommended in order to prevent cavities and other dental problems. Your pediatric dentist can tell you when and how often your child should visit based on their personal oral health.


When should a child get his/her first dental x-ray?

There are no hard-and-fast rules for when to start dental X-rays. Some children who may be at a higher risk for dental problems (for example, those prone to baby bottle tooth decay or those with cleft lip/palate) should have X-rays taken earlier than others. Usually, most children should have their x-ray taken by the age of 5 or 6.

As children begin to get their permanent teeth around the age of 6 years, X-rays play an important role in helping us to evaluate growth and development of permanent teeth. X-rays also allow to gauge the presence and severity of the existing dental decay so that an appropriate treatment can be planned.


How safe are dental x-rays?

There is very little risk in dental X-rays. Pediatric dentists are especially careful to limit the amount of radiation to which children are exposed. Digital x-rays need minimal x-ray exposure. Lead aprons and high-speed film are used to ensure safety and minimize the amount of radiation.


There is a gap between my child’s newly erupted upper front permanent incisors, should I worry?

It is normal to see gaps between these teeth when they are erupting. Usually, the space will close in the next few years as the other front teeth erupt. Your child needs to be monitored through the entire process.


What should my child eat to keep his/her teeth cavity-free?

Sugars or carbohydrates in diet is one of the primary responsible factors to cause dental decay. Added sugars as well as hidden sugars in your child’s diet contribute towards dental decay. Proper dietary habits should be inculcated from a very young age. Encourage your child to have 3 proper nutritious meals. Between-meal snacking should be restricted to less than 2-3 and should include nuts, vegetables, fruits, and home-made snacks. Sweet snacks, biscuits, bread, toffees, candies, pastries, cakes should not be given on every-day basis.