Stages of Pediatric Dental Care

Throughout the different pediatric developmental stages, your child will face different concerns. From receiving their first tooth and learning how to brush their teeth to screening for orthodontic problems and removing problematic wisdom teeth, your child will have specific oral health concerns at certain ages. 

Our job at Villa Park Pediatric Dentistry is to give you and your child the tools you need to prevent, diagnose, and treat these oral health problems.

The First Year of Life

Believe it or not, the first year of life is when oral hygiene starts, whether or not your baby has their first tooth yet. You can expect your child’s first tooth to erupt within 6 months to a year. Before then, you should keep their gums clean by wiping them with a damp cloth every day. 

This removes bacteria and prepares your child for teething. As soon as the first tooth erupts, you should brush it with a baby toothbrush and water. Clean their teeth and gums twice a day until they are 18 months old. 

Their first dental visit should be when their first tooth comes in or by their first birthday - whichever takes place first. At this dental appointment, we will examine your child’s mouth for signs of abnormalities like tongue or lip ties. 

We will clean their tooth, or teeth, apply fluoride varnish, give you information about what to expect from their teething schedule, and how to prevent tooth decay. You should avoid putting your baby to sleep at night with a baby bottle, as this increases their risk of tooth decay.

1-3 Years Old

From the age of 1, your child should be attending regular dental visits every 6 months for cleanings and checkups. Your child can start using fluoride toothpaste at 18 months, but it should be the size of a pea. When children use excess fluoride, they can develop fluorosis.

Your child will be teething until they turn 3, at which point most kids will have all 20 of their baby teeth. Some children may be a little more delayed than others. It’s important to wean your child off of baby bottles by the time they turn one year old to prevent tooth decay. 

You should also wean them off of thumb sucking and pacifier use early on, because the longer this behavior continues, the higher their risk of oral health and developmental problems.

It’s important that they stop using a pacifier or sucking their thumb by the time they turn 4, but ideally by the time they turn 2. Start flossing your child’s teeth when their teeth move closer together.

3-6 Years Old

Show your child how to properly brush their teeth at a 45-degree angle and ensure that they are brushing for at least 2 minutes twice a day. Children don’t develop the necessary dexterity to be able to thoroughly brush their teeth on their own until they are 7 or 8 years old so you will have to assist them or at least monitor them. 

Dental sealants should be applied as soon as your child receives their first primary molars, around age 6, because this will prevent cavities. Monitor your child’s diet, ensuring they don’t consume too many sweets or acidic foods which contribute to cavity development. Children are more prone to cavities because of their weaker, thinner enamel. 

6-13 Years Old

Kids and preteens at this age are much more active and at higher risk of dental trauma from accidents or contact sports. Have your child wear a mouthguard if they play contact sports if they show signs of teeth grinding at night. 

They should also start being more autonomous with their oral hygiene. Let them brush their own teeth around the age of 7, but monitor them to make sure they’re brushing adequately and long enough.

This is also the time when orthodontic screenings are critical to avoid extensive orthodontic treatment later on. We recommend that you take your child to an orthodontic screening at age 7 so we can spot early warning signs of misaligned teeth or an improper bite. 

Early orthodontic treatment can correct issues early before they become severe and require many years of braces. Dental sealants should be placed on the second primary molars at age 12.

13-18 Years Old

This is the age where more orthodontic issues like crooked teeth or improper bites become more prominent and require treatment with braces or clear aligners. Your child may also show signs that their wisdom teeth are erupting. Wisdom teeth can come in between the ages of 17-25. 

These teeth commonly cause problems and discomfort because they are often impacted, come in at the wrong angle, or there isn’t enough space in the jaw to accommodate them. This may result in severe pain, infection, and damage to the surrounding teeth. 

We will take x-rays to monitor your child’s wisdom teeth development and if these scans give us reason to believe that they would cause problems in the future (or presently) then they should be removed. Your child should make sure they attend regular dental visits to prevent tooth decay and gum disease as they become less reliant on your supervision.

Schedule a Pediatric Appointment Today

Establishing the importance of your child’s oral health from an early age is important because it serves as the foundation for their relationship with oral hygiene and dentistry for the rest of their lives. If your child needs a pediatric dental appointment with Dr. Butler, contact us at Villa Park Pediatric Dentistry today.

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