Pediatric Dental Development
This resource contains information regarding general healthy dental growth and development for children – from pregnancy through age 7, as well as some tips for parents and common questions and issues to be on the lookout for as you watch your child grow and develop.
Dental Development During Pregnancy
Babies begin to develop what are called “tooth buds” between 6 and 8 weeks of pregnancy. At week 8, a fetus is only about the size of a raspberry! Teeth are the some of the strongest bones in the human body, so it takes some time to build them up. At this point, nutrition for mom is key. A good balance of vitamins and minerals including calcium will help build up those tooth buds into healthy baby teeth.
Newborns & Infants up to 12 months
Healthy habits for gums and teeth start right from birth. Parents are advised to wipe baby’s gums with a clean, soft cloth or gauze after feedings or as regularly as possible to help remove germs and sugars which can cause tooth decay. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends to avoid frequent intake of sugary food or drink throughout the day, and also to avoid putting a baby to bed with a bottle.
The teething process for children can start generally anywhere from 4-10 months, but some babies are born with teeth and other babies will not get their first tooth until after they are more than a year old. This tooth eruption chart shows when you can typically expect your child’s teeth to erupt, or come through the gums. Once baby’s teeth have started coming through, The ADA recommends brushing them with plain water and a soft bristled brush until age 2 when toothpaste can be introduced. The sooner you begin a regular oral hygiene regimen with your baby, the easier it will be to get them used to the tooth brushing process and maintain it through childhood.
Babies love to chew, and the act of chewing can help the teething process. Baby teeth are strong and can be very sharp, so it is important to keep a close eye on your child’s teething toys to make sure they remain intact and avoid any damage or choking hazards.
Toddlers & Young Children up to age 7
Parents are encouraged to bring their children for the first dental visit anytime after the child’s teeth have started coming in. The most common average age to bring in a child for the first dental checkup is around 18 months. However, if you are concerned about your child’s facial or dental development, parents are encouraged to come sooner or see your child’s pediatrician.
Most children have all 20 of their baby teeth erupted by 33 months. This can be a fun and exciting time to explore growth, development and dental health with your child. You can use mirrors, games, 2-minute timers, and other tools to help make the oral hygiene routine interesting for your child. A healthy home care routine consists of brushing for two minutes, two times per day, and flossing at least once per day. For more information about creating a healthy at-home oral hygiene guide for children, please see our helpful guide.
Children want to become more independent over time, and may want to brush their teeth on their own. Is is important to supervise your child’s tooth brushing routine and to check their teeth after brushing. Sometimes, you may need to brush your child’s teeth again to show them how to do it correctly until they can do it on their own consistently. The dental hygiene habits you teach and reinforce with your child will carry them into their adulthood and give them the best possible chance to avoid dental caries and emergencies, and have a healthy and bright smile for life.
Just as you visit the pediatrician regularly to monitor your child’s growth and development, it is very important to bring your child for regular pediatric dental checkups with a dental professional, every 6 months after the first visit. Your child’s dentist will continue to monitor your child’s oral health, growth and development, and continue to provide positive reinforcement for you and your child about oral health and make pediatric dental visits a fun and interesting experience.
Your child may lose their first tooth or teeth by age 6. This period can be very fun and exciting for both children and adults. Many parents use the concept of the “Tooth Fairy” to explain what happens to baby teeth.
Some children may lose teeth earlier, particularly their front teeth, if the teeth are accidentally damaged or knocked out or loose during play or other activities. If your child accidentally knocks out a tooth or it becomes wiggly inside the mouth, please consult our dental emergency guide for children.
Age 7-16 – Growing Permanent Teeth
By age 7, many children have lost several baby teeth and have begun growing in adult teeth. The adult tooth eruption chart shows the average age children typically lose their baby teeth and grow new ones. Most of the time, baby teeth will fall out on their own, making room for adult teeth. Sometimes, however, your child’s dentist may recommend extracting a baby tooth or teeth because they may cause adult teeth to become misaligned, and may require orthodontic work to correct later on. Your child’s dentist will keep an eye on the growth and development of your child’s face and jaw, as well as the eruption of their permanent teeth and loss of baby teeth.
According to the American Association of Orthodontists, children should have their first orthodontic checkup by Age 7. An orthodontic consultation can help spot any potential issues with the bite and jaw alignment, and determine if any treatment can be provided to help encourage proper alignment early on, before the issues become more severe and may require orthodontic treatment interventions such as braces.
At 1st Family Dental, consultations with our orthodontists are always free, and we encourage parents to book an appointment for your child to see a 1st Family Dental orthodontist these convenient locations.
Your child’s dentist or orthodontist may recommend the use of space maintainers, a common treatment option for pediatric dental patients, to help ensure your child’s adult teeth have room in the mouth to grow in properly aligned. Learn more about what happens at a first orthodontic consultation from our Resource Library.
Most children should have 28 of 32 permanent teeth grown in by age 13. During this period of adolescence, children continue to grow, learn about themselves and develop their sense of identity. Many children will start orthodontic treatment such as traditional or clear braces or Invisalign around this time. Whether or not your child has braces, it is important to ensure they maintain good oral hygiene habits at home with regular brushing and flossing, and to reinforce the importance of having a healthy smile for life.
Regular dental checkup and cleaning visits every 6 months remain critical throughout childhood and adolescence. During these visits, your child’s dentist will review your child’s oral hygiene habits, and make recommendations to parents and children if needed on home-care routines to help avoid dental caries and emergencies.
Many adolescents and teens participate in recreation and sports activities. It is important to ensure your child protects their teeth and smile to avoid dental emergencies. For more information, visit our Resource Library to learn about sports safety.
Age 16-21: Wisdom Teeth
Eruption of wisdom teeth typically occurs between ages 17 and 21. Before and during this period, your child’s dentist will monitor the location and progression of their wisdom teeth during regular checkup and cleaning visits. Some people actually do not develop any wisdom teeth at all, and some people may only develop 1, 2 or 3. It is important to ensure that wisdom teeth develop and grow in proper alignment with the rest of the teeth and jaw. In some cases, wisdom teeth grow in and fit perfectly. In many cases, however, wisdom teeth may grow at an angle that can move other teeth out of alignment, or even cause damage to surrounding teeth. In other cases, wisdom teeth may be impacted, meaning they only erupt partially through the gum line.
Your dentist or orthodontist may recommend that your child’s wisdom teeth be removed to help prevent future issues. Peruse our Resource Library to learn more about wisdom tooth removal.