Pediatric Dentistry

Your child’s first visit

The Massachusetts Dental Society, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Dental Association, and the Massachusetts Academy of Pediatric Dentistry all recommend scheduling a baby’s first visit to the dentist within six months of the eruption of the first tooth, and no later than your child’s first birthday.

A baby’s first teeth usually begin to come in between the ages of six months and one year. This first set of teeth, called primary or baby teeth, are important and should be cared for properly. Not only do primary teeth help young children to speak and chew, but they also act as space holders in the jaw for the permanent teeth that are developing below the gums and that start to come in when the child is 6 or 7 years old.

Parents may wonder why they need to schedule early dental visits for their children. What sort of dental problems could a baby have? An age-one visit to the dentist is analogous to a well-baby visit to the pediatrician. These early dental visits allow the dentist to check for tooth decay and other things that may adversely affect the teeth and gums, including habits like thumb sucking, which can cause the teeth to misalign.

Here are some “First Visit” tips:

  • Take your child for a “preview” of the office.
  • Read books with them about going to the dentist.
  • Review with them what the dentist will be doing at the time of the first visit.
  • Speak positively about your own dental experiences.

During your child’s first visit Dr. Cove or Dr. Cove Kehoe will:

  • Gently examine your child’s teeth and gums.
  • We may clean your child’s teeth and apply topical fluoride to help protest the teeth against decay.
  • We will make sure your child is receiving adequate fluoride at home.
  • We will review with you how to clean and care for your child’s teeth.
  • Suggest a schedule for regular dental visits.

What about preventative care?

Tooth decay and children no longer have to go hand in hand. At our office we are most concerned with all aspects of preventive care. We use the latest in dental sealant technology to protect your child’s teeth. Dental sealants are space-age plastics that are bonded to the chewing surfaces of decay-prone back teeth. This is just one of the ways we will set the foundation for your child’s lifetime of good oral health.

Cavity prevention

Most of the time cavities are due to a diet high in sugary foods and a lack of brushing. Limiting sugar intake and brushing regularly, of course, can help. The longer it takes your child to chew their food and the longer the residue stays on their teeth, the greater the chances of getting cavities.

Every time someone eats, an acid reaction occurs inside their mouth as the bacteria digests the sugars. This reaction lasts approximately 20 minutes. During this time the acid environment can destroy the tooth structure, eventually leading to cavities.

Consistency of a person’s saliva also makes a difference; thinner saliva breaks up and washes away food more quickly. When a person eats diets high in carbohydrates and sugars they tend to have thicker saliva, which in turn allows more of the acid-producing bacteria that can cause cavities.

Tips for cavity prevention

  • Limit frequency of meals and snacks.
  • Encourage brushing, flossing and rinsing.
  • Watch what your child drinks.
  • Avoid giving your child sticky foods.
  • Make treats part of meals.
  • Never put a child to bed with a bottle containing anything other than water.
  • Choose nutritious snacks.

The first baby teeth that come into the mouth are the two bottom front teeth. You will notice this when your baby is about 6-8 months old. Next to follow will be the 4 upper front teeth and the remainder of your baby’s teeth will appear periodically. They will usually appear in pairs along the sides of the jaw until the child is about 2 1/2 years old.

At around 2 1/2 years old your child should have all 20 teeth. Between the ages of 5 and 6 the first permanent teeth will begin to erupt. Some of the permanent teeth replace baby teeth and some don’t. Don’t worry if some teeth are a few months early or late as all children are different.

Baby teeth are important as they not only hold space for permanent teeth but they are important to chewing, biting, speech and appearance. For this reason it is important to maintain a healthy diet and daily hygiene.