Updated on February 7, 2024
7 min read

When and Why Should Dental Visits for Children Begin?

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Why are Baby Teeth Important?

Some parents assume that baby teeth aren’t important because they eventually fall out, and adult teeth replace them. However, this isn’t true.

Baby teeth are essential because they:

  • Significantly impact a child’s long-term oral health, including the health of their developing permanent teeth
  • Hold space for the permanent teeth that’ll eventually grow in their place
  • Affect chewing capabilities and jaw development
  • Allow a child to smile naturally
  • Play a role in speech development
  • Affect palate shape and airway

What are the Risks of Dental Plaque on Developing Teeth?

Dental plaque is a collection of bacteria that develops as a sticky, clear, or white film on the surface of teeth. It’s a problem for people of all ages, including children.

Dental plaque increases the risk of many dental health issues, including:

  • Tooth enamel breakdown
  • Cavities
  • Gum inflammation, which can lead to gum disease
  • Problems with teeth and bone structure

Since it’s often hard to notice, never assume your child’s teeth are plaque-free. Visit your pediatric dentist for dental cleanings to prevent their buildup. 

What is Pediatric Dentistry?

Pediatric dentistry is the practice, teaching, and research of preventive oral care in children from birth through adolescence. Pediatric dentists encompass all aspects of oral health care for developing children.

They also offer specialized dental treatment for sick and disabled children. After a teenager turns 18 years old, they’ll no longer receive treatment from a pediatric dentist. Instead, they’ll visit a general or family dentist.

dentist cleaning young boys teeth

When Should Routine Dentist Visits Start?

Children should visit their pediatric dentist twice a year. The first visit should be within six months of an infant’s first tooth eruption or by 12 months of age.

Benefits of early dental visits include:

  • Receiving professional advice about oral health and teeth development
  • Normalizing routine visits to the dentist’s office
  • Learning about proper oral hygiene practices

These visits acclimate children to the dentist, making it a routine experience. Some parents even bring their children to their appointments to familiarize them with the setting.

What are the Most Common Pediatric Dental Conditions?

The most common pediatric dental conditions are:

  • Plaque buildup
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Tooth decay
  • Dental caries and cavities
  • Dental erosion
  • Gum disease
  • Abnormal development
  • Tooth loss
  • Oral inflammation and infection
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Dental trauma
  • Pulpal and periapical lesions
  • Bad breath

What are the 4 Types of Pediatric Procedures?

Using fluoride daily is essential for every child, especially in the early stages of life. Fluoride helps reduce plaque buildup and prevents tooth decay and tooth loss.

However, more invasive preventive treatments are necessary if a child already shows advanced signs of tooth decay or other oral diseases.

Restorative pediatric dental treatments include:

1. Tooth Fillings

Tooth fillings treat cavities and dental erosion. These conditions are the most common dental conditions affecting children of all ages. 

Enamel erosion is the irreversible loss of tooth enamel due to excessive exposure to acidic liquids and food. The condition is more prevalent in primary (baby or milk) teeth due to thinner enamel.

The prevalence of dental erosion in children ranges from 10 to 80 percent. In most cases, treatment isn’t necessary. Your pediatric dentist may only recommend changes in lifestyle, behavior, and diet. 

2. Pediatric Pulp Therapy

Pulp treatment is a baby root canal or pediatric pulp therapy. This treatment manages, saves, and restores a child’s decayed primary teeth.

3. Stainless Steel Crowns (SSCs)

Stainless steel crowns protect a child’s molars (back primary teeth) that haven’t formed properly or are heavily decayed. Sometimes, pediatric dentists have to place SSCs on the front teeth.

4. Tooth Extractions & Space Maintainers

Tooth extractions are usually necessary due to trauma, disease, crowding, or decay. Following the tooth extraction, a pediatric dentist places space maintainers to ensure the child’s permanent tooth grows correctly.

What are Preventive Pediatric Dental Treatments?

Preventive dental treatments for children include sealants and fluoride. They both help prevent cavity formation.

  • Tooth sealants ⁠— Ideal for children with deep pits and grooves in their primary or permanent teeth; prevent tooth decay
  • Fluoride ⁠— Decreases the rate of caries

Your child can get the right amount of fluoride through fluoride supplements or topical fluoride therapy. Drinking water in U.S. states is also typically treated with fluoride to help people maintain healthy teeth.

Fluoride supplements can come in tablet and liquid form. They’re best for children who drink water low in fluoride or those with a high risk of developing cavities.

Topical fluoride therapy is best for children between 3 and 6 years old but can be done at any age. These treatments can come from over-the-counter toothpaste or professional treatments (e.g., gels, pastes, and varnishes).

How to Care for Your Child’s Teeth At Every Age

Here’s how to promote good dental health for your child, depending on their age:

Newborns and Infants

  • Clean your baby’s gums with a soft, damp cloth
  • Properly clean and sterilize feeding items
  • Keep pacifiers free of bacteria and germs
  • Avoid using the same eating utensils as your baby 


  • Start tooth brushing your child’s teeth with soft nylon bristles when their first teeth appear 
  • Help them floss every day
  • Schedule your child’s first dental visit when their first tooth appears
  • Brush using fluoride toothpaste
  • Supervise brushing and ask a dentist for a brushing and flossing demonstration
  • Limit sugary foods and beverages
  • Encourage eating healthy, crunchy foods like apples and carrots
  • Floss as soon as your child has two teeth touching
  • Speak to your child’s dentist about sealants and oral fluoride supplements

Dental sealants help prevent cavities. A dentist places them in the grooves and fissures of teeth to prevent plaque buildup, ultimately reducing the risk of tooth decay.


  • Continue to schedule regular dental visits for your child (twice yearly) and can mention sealants
  • Speak to your child about dental health and encourage them to take an active role in maintaining it
  • Discourage sugary snacks and beverages as your child begins to make their own food choices
  • Encourage daily flossing and using fluoride mouthwash
  • Ask a dentist about sealants and fluoride treatments
  • Discuss alignment and other orthodontic issues with a dentist


  • Talk to your child about their dental health concerns, especially cosmetic issues
  • If necessary, discuss safe whitening options with your child and dentist
  • Periodically check in with your child about how they maintain good oral health 
  • Discuss oral sex and how it can affect their oral and overall health

What are the Phases of Child Teeth Development?

There are three phases of child tooth development. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect during each stage: 

Phase 1

During the first phase, the primary teeth grow. Babies usually get their first tooth around six months old, but it can happen as late as age 1. 

One to two teeth grow each month after the first tooth appears. Most children have all 20 primary or baby teeth by age 3.  

Phase 2

Phase two, or the transitional dentition stage, is when a child’s baby teeth start to fall out. This stage begins around age six and continues until about age 12. 

Phase 3

The final stage is when permanent teeth grow and replace the primary teeth. Stage three overlaps with stage two, meaning adult or permanent teeth begin growing before a child loses all their baby teeth.

Most people have 28 adult teeth by age 13. Their wisdom teeth appear around ages 17 to 21. At this age, some adults will have 32 teeth, including wisdom teeth (third molars).

What are the Risks of Poor Dental Hygiene in Children?

There are several risks associated with poor dental hygiene in children. In many cases, these problems worsen with age. 

Some of the most common risks of poor dental hygiene during childhood include:

  • Depressed immune response
  • Social and psychological issues associated with their appearance
  • Increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, and other health issues


Pediatric dentistry focuses on children’s oral health from infancy through adolescence. It involves preventive and restorative treatments to help them maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Parents play an important role in promoting good dental hygiene for their children from birth to their teenage years. They can help children develop strong, healthy teeth that will last a lifetime by following good oral hygiene practices and regularly visiting a pediatric dentist.

It’s also important to know the risks of poor dental hygiene and take steps to prevent them. Every child can have a bright and healthy smile with dentists and parents working together to care for their oral health.

Last updated on February 7, 2024
11 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 7, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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  2. Koch et al. “Pediatric Dentistry: a Clinical Approach.” John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2017.
  3. Nowak et al. “Pediatric Dentistry: Infancy through Adolescence.” Elsevier, 2019.
  4. Taji et al. “A Literature Review of Dental Erosion in Children.” Australian Dental Journal, 2010.
  5. Fluoride for Children: FAQs” American Academy of Paediatrics, 2020.
  6. Zou et al. “Common Dental Diseases in Children and Malocclusion.” International Journal of Oral Science, 2018.
  7. Children’s Oral Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022. 
  8. Children’s Dental Health.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023. 
  9. Rowan-Legg et al. “Oral Health Care for Children – a Call for Action.” Paediatrics & Child Health, 2013.
  10. Martin, J. “Blog: Oral Health in Utah.” The University of Utah, 2022.  
  11. Take Care of Your Child’s Teeth.” Health.gov, 2023.
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