A lot of parenting is simply figuring things out as you go, but one thing that can be tough is knowing just when to begin an oral health care routine or to seek dental care for infants.
When it comes to understanding a dental care timeline for infants and children, we’ve got you covered.
Most pediatric dentists agree that regular dental care should begin by 1 year of age, with a dental check-up at least twice each year for most children. Some children may need check-ups more often depending on their oral health needs.
Here’s a good dental checklist for infants and toddlers from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD):
Birth to 6 months old
- After feedings and at bedtime, clean your baby’s mouth with water and a cloth or gauze or use a soft infant toothbrush.
- Consult your child’s healthcare provider about using fluoride supplements if you live in an area without fluoridated water.
- Also ask about applying fluoride varnish to their teeth.
- Establish regular feeding habits (bottle feeding and breastfeeding).
6 to 12 months old
- The first teeth should begin appearing during this period. Consult a pediatric dentist for an exam as soon as the first tooth arrives but no later than your child’s first birthday.
- Brush these new teeth after each feeding and again at bedtime with a small, soft-bristled brush. You can use a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste—about the size of a grain of rice.
- As your child begins to walk, stay alert for possible dental or facial injuries and places where they’re likely to occur.
1 to 3 years old
- Follow the schedule of dental exams and cleanings recommended by your child’s pediatric dentist. Generally, dental exams and cleanings are to happen every six months for children and adults.
- At around age 3, as your child learns to rinse and spit while brushing, you can use a pea-sized portion of fluoridated toothpaste.
Facts about baby teeth
Correct care of a child’s baby teeth—also known as primary teeth—is very important. These teeth hold space for the future adult (permanent) teeth.
- If a baby tooth decays or is removed too early, the space for the permanent teeth can be lost and often requires orthodontic treatment to fix.
- Infected baby teeth can cause the permanent teeth to develop incorrectly, resulting in stains, pits, and weaker teeth.
- Baby teeth play a role in speech development.
- Baby teeth aid in chewing food correctly, which impacts healthy nutrition.
Most children begin losing their baby teeth around ages 5 and 6. Children often lose their front teeth first and continue to lose baby teeth until the age of 12 or 13, when all of the permanent teeth finally come through—except for the third molars (wisdom teeth). These molars begin to appear around 17 to 21 years of age.
Even during times of social distancing and COVID-19 restrictions, kids and their parents should continue to see their dentist regularly with check-ups and regular cleanings.
*Updated February 2022