Confused about Toddler Dental Care? 9 Top Questions About Teeth

We’ve asked the experts to answer parent’s most common toddler dental care questions, including when, how and why oral health is important for young children.

Questions about Dental Care for Young Children

1. At what age should a child first see a dentist?

While the average age for the first dental visit is 2 ½ years, the American Dental Association actually recommends that it take place before the child’s first birthday! A good rule of thumb is 6 months after your child’s first tooth erupts.

First baby tooth being examined
Photo Dr. Nixon|CC

2. At what age should you begin tooth cleaning?

When the first tooth erupts, it’s time to start cleaning. For infants and toddlers under age 2, parents can use a cloth or wipes, instead of a soft brush.

Take care to clean along the gum line, as well as on all tooth surfaces. Children will be less resistant to daily brushing if they begin a dental care routine at an early age.Tooth Tissues for Wiping Baby Teeth

3. Should toddlers use fluoride toothpaste?

Children should not use fluoridated toothpaste until they can spit the toothpaste out, after age 2, and usually not until around age 3 or 4. Until then, plain water works just fine, or try a non-fluorinated version, such as Tom’s all-natural or a xylitol toothpaste.

Try to avoid “kids flavored” toothpastes with artificial sweeteners. Even though they are  sugar-free, the can entice children to develop a taste for sweets and may encourage “eating”, rather than “spitting” out the paste.

4. Is fluoride safe for kids?

A little fluoride is very beneficial and necessary for developing teeth, but too much fluoride can lead to a condition called enamel fluorosis. This harmless condition causes white spots when the adult teeth erupt and is permanent and irreversible. Make sure your child does not swallow or eat excess toothpaste.
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5. At what age should kids brush their own teeth?

Kids lack the fine motor skills and maturity to brush their own teeth until about 7 years of age.  Until then brush your child’s teeth, and supervise that they have done a thorough job while they are learning.

Your six-year-old may say they “brushed”, when really they only got to their two front teeth!

Father using electric toothbrush on toddler teeth
Photo kristen & todd|CC

6. Why worry about cleaning baby teeth?

A common misconception is that kids don’t really have to take care of baby teeth. They’ll get new ones, right? Well, wrong!

Poor oral hygiene and nutrition in young children can result in malformation of their adult teeth which are still developing during childhood and corrective procedures for baby teeth can be costly and uncomfortable for children.

7. Should my child see a pediatric dentist?

Pediatric dentists are specially trained to care for children’s teeth.  However regular dentists who have a good rapport with children also make excellent family dentists.  Parents should choose a dentist they are most comfortable with and are convenient for their family.

Establishing good teeth cleaning habits takes time, practice, and consistency. With proper care, those pearly whites and gleaming smile will last a lifetime!

8. At what age do teeth come in, and when will the lose their first tooth? (Tooth Chart)

A baby’s first tooth is usually a lower central incisor which erupts between 6 and 10 months of age.   A toddler will get their first molar (usually an upper molar) between 13 and 19 months old.

Children typically lose their first baby tooth sometime between age 6-7.

Toddler and Baby Tooth Chart
Tooth Chart showing age ranges of when teeth come in, when they fall out, and the names of teeth.

9. Are electric toothbrushes better?

Toothbrushes now come with all sorts of gizmos……timers, play music, swirling bristles, and fancy colors.  There are tons of apps for encouraging toothbrushing as well.

However what really matters is HOW children use the brush and the FREQUENCY your child brushes.  If the gadgets and gizmos help them become more consistent and thorough, they maybe beneficial.

But an inexpensive, plain, soft bristle toothbrush is usually the best option for establishing good oral health care.

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