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February is US National Children's Dental Health Month

By: Commander A. L. LaGreco,Kadena Navy Dental Clinic

Date Posted: 2000-02-12

Even though your child’s first teeth are replaced by a permanent set, they play a very important role in your baby’s dental development. When your child is born, all 20 of the primary teeth, which will appear over the next two years, are already present in your baby’s jaws. These teeth are almost fully developed but will remain hidden under the gums until the front teeth begin to emerge at about six or seven months. Teething will continue on and off for about two years. Around age six the permanent teeth begin to appear and teething will continue on and off until about age twelve. At that point all the permanent teeth with the exception of the wisdom teeth are present.

Even though baby teeth will be replaced by the permanent teeth, they are crucial to the jaw development and positioning of the permanent teeth of your child. Because the baby teeth are responsible for guiding the permanent teeth into their proper place in the mouth, baby teeth that are missing or prematurely lost may need to have their natural space held open, usually by a little device called a space maintainer. Any missing teeth should be brought to the attention of your dentist. How your child cares for his baby teeth will play an important role in how he treats his second and final set. Children’s teeth get plaque just as adult teeth do; therefore they need to be cleaned just as permanent teeth. Because children’s mouths accumulate plaque just like adult teeth, their gums are also susceptible to the gum problems plaque can cause. Bleeding gums need to be cared for. Notify your dentist if your child’s gums bleed when he or she brushes.

Diet also plays an important role in the dental health of a child as it does in that of an adult. Your child’s teeth should be cleaned daily, and sweet and starchy foods kept to a minimum. Also, try to avoid having your child sleep with a bottle of milk, formula or fruit juice; you run the risk of "nursing bottle mouth" - a dental condition that destroys your child’s teeth through early, serious decay. Sugar in these liquids mixes with the bacteria in the dental plaque in the mouth to from acids that attack tooth enamel. Each time your child drinks liquids containing sugar, the acids attack the teeth for at least 20 minutes. When the child is awake, their saliva tends to carry away the liquid. During sleep, the saliva flow decreases and these liquids pool around the child’s teeth for long periods, bathing the teeth in acid. Don’t think that a pacifier dipped in honey or sugar is beneficial either - this will damage the teeth just as easy. Best advice, if your child needs a bottle at bedtime, fill the bottle with plain water. Any discoloration on your child’s teeth should be brought to the attention of your dentist for his or her evaluation.

Your child’s first visit to the dentist should be a pleasant experience and should be before age 2, definitely before all 20 teeth are in the mouth. You can do much to prepare your child for his first visit, and help him or her to look forward to this new experience. . Children visiting the dentist for the first time are full of questions. Entertain your child’s curiosity by talking about the upcoming visit. Don’t mention needles or "that it won’t hurt" - this may frighten your child. You can tell your child the dentist will count their teeth to see how many there are and maybe take some pictures of their teeth as well. Your dental office may have a book you can read to your child about the first visit to the dentist, if not the library has a lot of information about this subject matter. Proper care of your child’s’ teeth will avoid problems in the future and help to keep your child’s’ smile bright and healthy.

Your child’s dental health is very important to us at Third Dental Battalion/USNDC. So, please take advantage of the services we have to offer you and your child and give your local Navy Dental Clinic a call TODAY because HEALTHY SMILES ARE OUT OF THIS WORLD!


Put only water in a child's naptime or bedtime bottle.

Wipe an infant's gums with a clean, damp cloth after feeding.

Start brushing baby's teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts.

Take you child to see the dentist regularly, scheduling the first visit soon after the child's first birthday.

Discuss your child's fluoride needs with your dentist and pediatrician.

Brush and floss your child's teeth until the child can be taught to do this alone.

Set a good example by brushing and flossing your teeth everyday and seeing your dentist and hygienist on a regular basis.

Contact your dentist immediately should you notice anything unusual.

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