As parents, we want the best for our children — their oral health is no exception. Developing healthy dental habits from a young age sets the stage for a lifetime of strong teeth and healthy gums. 

In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the important dental health milestones to look out for as your child grows.. By understanding these milestones, you can ensure that your child’s dental development is on track and take the necessary steps to promote a healthy smile.

The arrival of baby teeth (4-12 months)

The first major dental milestone in your child’s life is the eruption of their baby teeth. It is possible, though uncommon, for newborns to be born with a few teeth already erupted. Typically the process begins around 6 months of age, but can occur any time between 4-12 months of age, with the lower front teeth (central incisors) usually being the first to appear. Don’t sweat if your child passes the one year mark without having any teeth erupted, some kids just take longer. We will help monitor this eruption process and development with you.

Over the next few years, the rest of the baby teeth will emerge, completing a set of 20 primary teeth by the age of 2-3 years. During this time, it’s crucial to clean your baby’s gums with a soft, damp washcloth after feeding and to transition to a soft-bristled infant toothbrush once the teeth start erupting.

Learning to brush (2-3 Years)

Around the age of 2-3 years, your child will begin to develop the motor skills necessary to brush their own teeth. As a parent, you can start teaching them the proper brushing technique using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. We recommend parents not let kids brush without supervision until older. Kids do not typically develop the fine motor skills to brush their teeth without assistance from their parents until this time.  Your child should brush their teeth twice a day for two minutes each time and they should ideally floss one time a day as well.

The first dental visit (around 1 year)

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends scheduling your child’s first dental visit by their first birthday or within six months of when their first tooth appears. 

This initial visit is crucial for establishing a positive relationship between your child and the dentist. It allows the dentist to assess your child’s oral health, provide guidance on oral care practices and nutrition, and address any concerns you may have. At Children’s Dentistry of Charlottesville, we strive to create a friendly and comfortable environment for young patients, making their first dental visit a positive experience.

Transition to permanent teeth (6-12 years)

Between the ages of 6 and 12, your child will begin to lose their baby teeth as permanent teeth take their place. Usually the first permanent teeth to erupt are the 6 year molars that come in behind the primary teeth in the back of the mouth. The exfoliation of primary teeth typically starts with the lower front teeth, followed by the upper front teeth and later on the primary molars. The eruption of permanent teeth can sometimes cause discomfort or sensitivity. Encourage your child to maintain regular brushing and flossing habits during this transition to ensure the health of their new permanent teeth.

Orthodontic evaluation (around 7-8 years)

Around the age of 7 or 8 it’s recommended to schedule an orthodontic evaluation for your child. An orthodontist can assess your child’s dental development, identify any potential orthodontic issues, and determine if early intervention is necessary. Early orthodontic treatment can help guide the growth of the jaw, address bite issues, and prevent more complex problems in the future.

Dental sealants (around 6-12 years)

Dental sealants are thin, protective coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to prevent tooth decay. These teeth, known as molars, often have deep grooves that can be challenging to clean properly. By applying dental sealants, we help create a barrier that reduces the risk of cavities. Dental sealants are typically recommended once the permanent molars erupt, around the age of 6 and again at 12.

Emphasizing good nutrition and oral hygiene

Throughout your child’s early life, it’s important to emphasize the connection between nutrition and oral health. A well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins provides the necessary nutrients for strong teeth and gums. Limiting sugary snacks, processed foods, and sugary drinks can help prevent tooth decay. Encourage your child to drink water instead of sugary beverages and choose healthy snacks like fresh fruits and vegetables. Juices and milk should be reserved for meals, only offer water to your child in between meals. Children should not be allowed to drink soda, except for on special occasions.

In addition to a nutritious diet, instilling proper oral hygiene habits is crucial. Help your child understand the importance of brushing their teeth twice a day and flossing daily. Teach them the correct technique for brushing and emphasize the significance of reaching all surfaces of their teeth. As they grow older, introduce mouthwash as an additional tool for maintaining oral health, under the guidance of their dentist.

Sports mouthguards

If your child is active in sports or participates in activities with a risk of dental injuries or concussions, such as biking or skateboarding, it’s essential to protect their teeth with a sports mouthguard. Custom-made mouthguards, available here through your dentist, provide optimal protection and comfort, reducing the risk of dental trauma and concussions.

Continued dental checkups

Regular dental checkups play a vital role in maintaining your child’s oral health. It’s generally recommended to visit the dentist every 6 months, although your dentist may suggest more frequent visits based on your child’s needs. 

These checkups allow your child’s dentist to monitor their dental development, clean their teeth professionally, and detect any signs of dental problems early on. By attending regular appointments, you are actively investing in your child’s oral health and setting them up for a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Reinforcing a positive attitude

Throughout all these dental health milestones, it’s important to reinforce a positive attitude toward oral health. Be their role model by practicing good oral hygiene yourself and expressing your enthusiasm for dental care. Celebrate their accomplishments in maintaining good oral health and make dental visits something to look forward to rather than dread. 

By creating a positive association with dental care, you’ll help your child develop a lifelong commitment to oral health.

Work with a dental partner that can help your child through all the stages of their early dental life

By understanding the dental health milestones throughout your child’s early life, you can take proactive steps to ensure their oral health is on track. From the eruption of baby teeth to the transition to permanent teeth, each stage requires attention and care. By emphasizing good nutrition, oral hygiene practices, regular dental checkups, and a positive attitude, you can set the foundation for your child’s long-term oral health.

Remember, at Children’s Dentistry of Charlottesville, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive and child-friendly dental care. Schedule your child’s appointment today and let us partner with you in nurturing their healthy smiles.