Infants and children are not immune to oral health problems. In 2002, "Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General" found that dental caries (tooth decay or cavities) is the most chronic childhood ailment – five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever.
In 2005, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that tooth decay is the most chronic disease among children aged five to 17. Oral health problems affecting infants are no less serious.
Diet and the Oral Health Implications
What your children eat affects their teeth. Sugars (found in cake, cookies, candy, milk and juice) and starches (found in pretzels and potato chips) can cause tooth decay. Add to this the fact that it is more difficult to clean babies’ and children’s teeth and you can see why debris tends to remain in children’s teeth, resulting in bacteria growth and, ultimately, tooth decay.
Although baby teeth (deciduous or primary teeth) are eventually replaced with permanent teeth, healthy baby teeth are fundamental to a child’s overall health and development.
Baby-to-Child Dental Checklist
Some babies are born with neonatal teeth (teeth that develop in the first month) that require dental hygiene or a visit to the dentist for their removal. At least one baby tooth erupts by six months of age. And, yes, it requires cleaning.
From six months to 24 months, children begin teething in earnest, indicated by irritability, biting on objects, drooling and ear pulling. As a parent, you can help teething progress by using strategies such as massaging your child’s gums, offering a chilled teething ring or cold, wet washcloth and asking your dentist for a teething ointment recommendation.
By three years of age, most if not all baby teeth have erupted. Soon after four years, spaces for permanent teeth begin to appear as the jaw, supporting bone structure and facial bones begin to grow.
From six to 12, it is typical for your child to have both baby teeth and permanent teeth in their mouth.