Early Dental Care

As a dentist in Little Rock that provides exceptional cosmetic, restorative, and sedation dentistry services to patients of all ages, Dr. Tracy T. Windham, and his caring staff offer early dental care to our youngest patients. To ensure your child enjoys a lifetime of healthy and happy smiles, it’s essential that he or she visits Dr. Windham regularly for routine check-ups and professional cleanings. But it takes far more than just trips to the dentist to keep your little one’s teeth and gums healthy. Below we’ve provided some helpful information that can help set your children on the right path toward a future full of great smiles!

Why Primary Teeth Are Important

Even though your child won’t keep his or her primary or baby teeth forever, these teeth serve some extremely important functions. The primary teeth act as guides for the eruption of the permanent (adult) teeth, holding the space available for these new teeth to erupt through the gums. When the permanent teeth begin to erupt, the crowns or tops of these teeth push against the roots of the primary teeth, causing them to resorb. Eventually, all the adult teeth except the third molars (wisdom teeth) will take the place of the primary teeth.

The primary teeth are also important for:

  • Helping your child bite and chew food efficiently
  • Giving your child confidence knowing his or her smile looks attractive
  • Helping your child speak clearly
  • Helping ensure the primary teeth come in straight

Your child will need his or her primary teeth for all these reasons for most of his or her childhood. And for the first six or so years, your child will be relying solely on these teeth to perform these important functions. Until around the age of 12, your child will have a combination of primary and permanent teeth, making it important to keep those primary teeth healthy until they’re lost naturally. 

When Your Child Will Get His or Her Primary Teeth

You can expect to start seeing your child’s 20 primary teeth pushing through the gums between the ages of six and nine months, although this can differ in some children. For instance, it’s perfectly natural for a child to start getting his or her primary teeth as early as three months or as late as twelve months. Usually, the first teeth to appear are the two lower front teeth, followed by the two upper front teeth. Then it’s the molars that come in next, followed by the canine teeth. As your child’s teeth are coming in, it is normal for him or her to feel some discomfort. If this is the case, just contact us and we’ll give you some tips.

How to Clean Your Baby’s Newly Erupted Teeth

You should keep your baby’s newly erupted teeth clean by gently wiping them with a clean, damp, washcloth or gauze pad after each feeding. Then once your child has more primary teeth at around the age of two, start brushing those teeth with a small, child-sized toothbrush and no more than a tiny smear of fluoridated toothpaste. You can expect your child to need your assistance in brushing his or her teeth until around the age of six.

Your Child’s First Visit With Our Little Rock Dentist

Our practice agrees with the recommendation made by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) that states all kids should visit a dentist by the age of one. Even though this may seem like an early age to take your child to the dentist, this visit is important for many reasons:

  • It helps your child become familiar with his or her dentist and all the sights and sounds of a dental office environment.
  • It gives us the opportunity to show you how to properly care for your child’s teeth.
  • It allows for your dentist to check for any problems like cavities and monitor your child for dental developmental problems.
  • It allows us to provide your child with any treatment he or she needs for common problems young children experience with their teeth like early childhood caries (tooth decay) that can develop very rapidly.
  • It helps pave the way for a future of good dental health and regular trips to the dentist.

Our Pediatric Dental Treatments

Dr. Windham offers various pediatric dental treatments to help our youngest patients avoid common problems like tooth decay or to save or repair teeth that are damaged, including:

Topical Fluoride – When fluoride is applied to the surface of the teeth, it makes it much more difficult for tooth decay to develop on the teeth. Even though community drinking water and most toothpastes contain fluoride, it can be helpful to have a higher concentration of fluoride applied directly to the teeth to help protect them from decay. For more information about cavity prevention in children, watch this video.

Dental Sealants – We can apply dental sealants to your child’s teeth to help prevent cavities. A dental sealant is a plastic coating that works its way into the tiny grooves on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth known pits and fissures. These little crevices are the ideal environments for decay-causing bacteria to gather. Children’s immature tooth enamel is more permeable and therefore less resistant to decay. It only takes a few minutes for us to apply sealants and they can last for a long time. To learn more about dental sealants, watch this video.

Root Canal Treatment – While many people think that only adults need root canal treatment, the fact is sometimes kids need this treatment too to save their primary teeth that are affected by severe decay. Root canal treatment can save a primary tooth to help hold space for the permanent tooth that will replace it later. This can help your child avoid developing a malocclusion or “bad bite” that may require orthodontic treatment to remedy.

Bonding – Many children chip or fracture their front teeth when being active. These types of minor imperfections can be repaired with dental bonding. These are natural-looking resins made of plastic and glass that are applied to primary and permanent teeth to improve their appearance. To learn more about dental bonding, watch this video.

Orthodontic Concerns With Young Children

By the time a child reaches the age of seven, most malocclusions are easy to spot. Interceptive orthodontic treatment around this time can help direct the proper tooth positioning and/or proper jaw growth, eliminating or simplifying the need for later treatment. This is why it’s important to have your child evaluated by an orthodontist by the time he or she turns seven years of ages.

Protecting Your Child’s Teeth When Playing Sports

If your child is active in sports, we highly recommend a custom-made protective mouth guard. We can have a mouth guard custom-made for your child using a model of his or her teeth that will be much more effective at protecting the teeth than “boil and bite” mouth guards that are available at most sports stores. While a custom-made mouth guard may cost more than an off-the-shelf model, the extra money invested will be well worth it in the long run as “boil and bite” mouth guards fall short in doing a good job of protecting the teeth from harm.

Contact Your Little Rock Dentist

At our dental office in Little Rock, we love providing our youngest patients with the dental care they need to keep their smiles healthy and beautiful! If you have any questions about early dental care or the treatments we provide, please don’t hesitate to contact us to ask! If it’s time for your child to see the dentist, please request an appointment with Dr. Windham today. We look forward to seeing you and your child soon and helping your child achieve and maintain optimal dental health for a lifetime of happy smiles!