Baby teeth start to grow in on average when our little ones are 6 months old. By the time they are three years old they have a full set of 20 baby teeth. Brushing baby teeth should start as early as the arrival of the first tooth. They may seem unimportant as eventually they will fall out; however, they serve the purpose of holding space for a future permanent tooth. They are nature’s space maintainers and are also important for speaking and chewing. Therefore, taking good care of them is critical from the first day they make it into your baby’s mouth.
For the first couple of baby teeth, a piece of gauze to wipe the baby teeth and a rice size smear of toothpaste is all you need to keep them clean. It is mostly the friction of the gauze or toothbrush that you use that cleans the teeth, not the toothpaste. By age 1 your child should see a family dentist or pediatric dentist. They can expand on toothpaste recommendations. This early introduction to the dental office allows the child to get comfortable with all the tools and supplies used to keep their little mouths healthy. It also helps to establish and reinforce good habits early on. Treatments such as fluoride at the office strengthen the teeth to prevent decay and other problems. Prevention is key and early detection of problems allows for less complex procedures, which in turn allows for less anxiety and a much better experience during dental appointments.
Early loss of baby teeth from cavities or trauma can cause the space that they were saving for the permanent tooth to come in, to actually close up. This will give the permanent tooth less space than it needs to come into the mouth and may cause it to not even come in at all! Seeing a dentist every 6 months will help ensure the preservation of baby teeth and less complex orthodontic problems when they are old enough for braces.
By age 7, your child should see an orthodontist to make sure that the permanent teeth are developing properly and that the baby teeth are doing their job. Lack of spacing between baby teeth is an indication that there will be crowding in the future. An orthodontist is trained to detect if and when early intervention is needed to help make room for all the teeth to fit in the mouth.