Your child won't keep his or her first teeth forever, but that doesn't mean those tiny pearly whites don't need conscientious care. Maintaining your child's dental health now will provide health benefits well into adulthood, as primary (baby) teeth serve some extremely important functions.

Kids developing jaws and teeth.

For one thing, primary teeth serve as guides for the eruption of permanent (adult) teeth, holding the space into which these new teeth will erupt. The crowns (tops) of the permanent teeth actually push against the roots of the baby teeth, causing them to resorb, or melt away. In this way, the adult teeth can take their proper place.

What's more, your child's primary teeth will be there for most of childhood, helping your child to bite, chew and speak. For the first six or so years, he or she will be relying on primary teeth exclusively to perform these important functions. Until around age 12, your child will have a mix of primary and permanent teeth. You will want to make sure those teeth stay healthy and are lost naturally — when it's time.

Your Child's First Teeth

Kids mouth anatomy.

Your child's 20 baby teeth will begin to appear usually between six and nine months, though in some cases it may start as early as three months or as late as twelve months. The two lower front teeth tend to erupt first, followed by the two upper ones. The first molars come in next, followed by the canines (eyeteeth). Sometimes your baby can experience teething discomfort during this process. If so, there are courses of action to help make your child more comfortable.

Your infant's gums and newly erupting teeth should be gently wiped after each feeding with a water-soaked gauze pad or damp washcloth. Starting at age 2, when there are more teeth in the mouth, establish a daily brushing routine with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and no more than a thin smear of fluoridated toothpaste. Your child may need your help with this important task until about the age of 6.

Your Child's First Dental Appointment

Age one dental visit

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that your child see a dentist by his/her first birthday. Though this may sound early, learning proper pediatric oral hygiene techniques, checking for cavities, and watching for developmental problems is extremely important.

There are a number of forms of tooth decay that can affect babies and small children. Early Childhood Caries (tooth decay) can develop rapidly, progressing from the hard, outer enamel layer of a tooth into the softer, inner dentin in six months or less.

Most of all, it's important for your child to have a positive experience at the dental office as he/she will be a regular visitor for years to come.

Pediatric Dental Treatments

There are a variety of dental treatments offered to prevent tooth decay in children, or to save or repair teeth when necessary. They include:

Topical Fluoride — Fluoride incorporates into the enamel of teeth, making it harder and more resistant to decay. Although there is a small amount of fluoride in toothpastes and in some drinking water supplies, a higher concentration can be applied professionally to your child's teeth for maximum protection.

Dental Sealants — A plastic coating can be applied at the dental office to prevent cavities by sealing the little grooves on the chewing surfaces of back teeth known as “pits and fissures.” These little crevices become the perfect environments for decay-causing bacteria. Immature tooth enamel is more permeable and therefore less resistant to tooth decay. Dental sealants are easy to apply and provide years of protection (Watch Dental Sealant Video).

Root Canal Treatment — Perhaps you have had a root canal treatment yourself, to save an injured or severely decayed tooth. Well, sometimes children need root canals, too. As mentioned above, baby teeth are important guides to the permanent teeth that are already forming beneath your child's gums. Therefore, saving them from premature loss can help prevent a malocclusion (“mal” – bad; “occlusion” – bite) that requires orthodontic treatment.

Bonding — Chips and minor fractures to front teeth — common childhood occurrences — can be repaired with tooth-colored bonding materials. These lifelike resins made of plastic and glass can be used on baby teeth as well as permanent teeth and last until the youngster has completed facial growth (Watch Bonding Video).

Orthodontic Concerns

Orthodontic Problems.

By around age 7, most malocclusions have become evident. Interceptive orthodontic treatment around this time can help direct proper tooth positioning and/or jaw growth, eliminating or simplifying the need for later treatment. There are many orthodontic problems that can be detected early and are examples of why a trained professional should evaluate your child during his/her growth and development.

Sports & Your Child's Teeth

If your child is active in sports, a custom-made mouthguard is a highly recommended safeguard. According to the American Dental Association, an athlete is 60 times more likely to suffer dental harm when not wearing one of these protective devices. A custom mouthguard is made specifically for your child using a model of his or her teeth. This will offer greater protection than an off-the-shelf model. It's an investment that pays off highly in the form of reduced pain, suffering — and dental expenses down the road!

Related Articles

Dentistry and Oral Health for Children - Dear Doctor Magazine

Dentistry and Oral Health for Children Dear Doctor magazine brings you this wide-ranging overview of milestones and transitions in your child's dental development. Learn how to protect your children from tooth decay, dental injuries, and unhealthy habits while getting them started on the road to a lifetime of oral health and general well-being... Read Article

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Pregnancy & Oral Health Pregnancy is generally thought of as the time when a woman strives to be particularly aware of the need for better health. Many women, though, may not be aware of the link that exists between their oral health and their systemic (general) health, as well as the impact this can have on a developing child. Learn about how to care for yourself and your baby... Read Article

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  • Sealants

    The most likely location for a cavity to develop in your child's mouth is on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Run your tongue over this area in your mouth, and you will feel the reason why: These surfaces are not smooth, as other areas of your teeth are. Instead, they are filled with tiny grooves

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  • Age One Dental Visit

    New parents have plenty to worry about: making sure their baby is healthy and happy, re-arranging their lives around hectic schedules and lost sleep, and figuring out what to do in all sorts of novel situations. When it comes to your child's oral health, though, there's plenty of help available. It all

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  • Teething

    New parents sometimes anticipate their baby's first tooth with a mixture of excitement and worry. While reaching a new developmental milestone is always a cause for celebration, this particular one can come with considerable discomfort. However, teething is different for each baby, and need not be painful

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  • Space Maintainers

    Your child's little baby teeth have some big responsibilities. Until the adolescent years, they will not only help your youngster bite and chew (i.e., get proper nutrition) and speak correctly but also help guide the permanent teeth underneath them into proper position. In fact, a major function of baby

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  • Sleep Apnea & Behavior Problems in Children

    The number of children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has been steadily increasing over the past decade. Yet according to a recent study, many children diagnosed with this condition don't really have it; their behavioral problems are actually related to sleep-related breathing

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    Sucking on a thumb or finger is a completely normal habit that some babies develop even before they're born. It's soothing, and it also helps babies make contact with and explore their environment. If sucking habits go on much past the age of 3, however, it's possible that bite problems may arise. In

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  • Nitrous Oxide for Children

    Some children are just too fearful to receive necessary dental care. In that type of situation, conscious sedation with nitrous oxide may be recommended to help make your child's experience of dental treatment stress-free. Nitrous oxide, a colorless gas with a slightly sweet odor, has been used in medicine

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  • Fluoride & Your Child

    Fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral, is essential for proper tooth development and the prevention of tooth decay. In communities throughout the United States, tooth decay may still be a significant problem — but it is far less prevalent than it would have been, if not for the fluoridation of public

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  • Pregnancy & Your Child's Developing Teeth

    Your baby's teeth will not be visible at birth. But believe it or not, they already exist beneath the gums. Children's primary teeth begin forming at about the sixth week of pregnancy, and start mineralizing — building the bonelike inner tooth layer (called dentin) and the super-hard enamel layer that

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  • "Dr Steve Manson... Superb! Janese... Top notch manager

    Jan 14, 2016 5/5 stars"
    - Morison, Jacqueline
  • "best dentist in town, very modern.

    Dec 27, 2015 5/5 Stars"
    -Toure, Elhadji
  • "The stairs will become more difficult as I age.

    Nov 5, 2015"
    - Hogan, Debra
  • "great dentist great secretary most important his treatment is outstanding. special treatment who have fear!!

    Oct 22, 2015 5/5 Stars"
    - Scime, Rose
  • "There was time between appointments.. You don't feel that the doctor has no time for you. Dr Manson has time for your individual needs... What a great man!

    Aug 27, 2015 5/5 Stars"
    - Morison, Jacqueline
  • "The visit was with staff that was friendly and professional.
    June 27, 2015 5/5 Stars"
    - McEvoy, Joe
  • "Professional staff, make you feel comfortable as you can be in the dental chair. Any questions you have are always answered & explained to the fullest. Taken for your appt. on time.

    Jun 25, 2015 5/5 Stars"
    - Phelps, Ruth
  • "Dr Steve Manson exceeds the standards of excellence in dentistry. We need another ten more of Dr Steve around New York City.

    May 21, 2015 5/5 Stars"
    - Morison, Jacqueline
  • "The Staff is wonderful. Dr. Manson is the best Dentist I ever went to. Does excellent work, and NO PAIN... Hes mine forever. I tell everyone I know to only go to him...He is a professional in every way. 5 STARS ALL THE WAY!!!

    May 8, 2015 5/5 Stars"
    - scime, Rose
  • "I was treated by staff and colleagues very well.

    June 27, 2015 5/5 Stars"
    - Rywak, Tamara
  • "Always feel confident I am getting the best advice possible on any dental situation.

    Mar 24, 2015 4/5 Stars"
    - Phelps, Ruth
  • "You guys are awesome!!!
    Aug 5, 2014 5/5 Stars"
    - Antoian, Kerrianne
  • "Besides being a great dentist, Dr. Manson is kind and caring.

    Jul 2, 2014 5/5 Stars"
    - Immordino, Rosary
  • "Fantastic dentist; been going to him for 15 years. Very nice and professional receptionist/assistant. Dr. Manson is the best of all professionals: he is meticulous, extremely skilled and has a warm but focused manner. The best old school professionalism with state-of-the art dental care.

    Jun 20, 2014 5/5 stars"
    - DiLeo, Leslie
  • "the office is run in a very professional manner. No changes are really needed.

    Jun 17, 2014 5/5 Stars"
    - Daly, William
  • "As always Dr. Manson and his assistant Janice are excellent. I travel from eastern Long Island because they are excellent! I have been a patient for approximately 40 years.

    June 12, 2014 5/5 Stars"
    - Tavano, Claudia
  • "Fantastic office. Fantastic work.

    Jun 11, 2014 5/5 stars"
    - Rusin, Ruza
  • "Janice is excellent!!!!!!

    May 6, 2014 5/5 Stars"
    -Tavano, Lawrence
  • "ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL!

    Apr 24, 2014 5/5 stars"
    - Mushorn, William
  • "Janiece is a wonderful addition to Dr. Manson's practice. She is so helpful and wonderful with a calm demeanor. Perfect hire Dr. Steve!

    Apr 21, 2014 5/5 Stars"
    - Duffy, Robin
  • "No issues. Dr. Manson seemed very knowledgeable and I really appreciated his hands on approach.

    Apr 8, 2014 5/5 Stars"
    - Lodato, Anthony
  • "Dr. Manson was thorough, gentle and very understanding. Would absolutely recommend!"
    - Ikeguchi, Jennifer
  • "Don't change a thing...continue to do the excellent job and service I receive every three months.

    Mar 18, 2014 5/5 stars"
    - Morison, Jacqueline
  • "A fast thorough no nonsense cleaning procedure performed in a pleasant friendly manner.

    Mar 11, 2014 5/5 Stars"
    - Chu Mun, Donald
  • "No pain! Janice is great!

    1/19/2014"
    – K. Dicicco 5/5 Star
  • "PAINLESS....FOR ME....THAT SAYS IT ALL.!

    11/12/2013"
    - B. Mushorn 5/5 Stars
  • "Caring, efficient, meticulous, professional. What more do you want?

    11/6/2013"
    – D.Chu Mun 5/5 Star
  • "I have been going to Dr. Manson's office for 30 years. Starting with his Dad and then moving on to Dr. Steven Manson who is wonderful! I was someone who avoided dentists for many many years because i was fearful but if you do have that fear he will put you completely at ease. I know for a fact that had i not started when i did with him I would more than likely not have a tooth left in my head. I have very soft teeth with lots of decay from bad eating habits and he has fixed them all just perfectly. I do believe my fear came from having teeth pulled which didn't really have to be at a young age so just give him a try, just once, and your fears will be settled. You should also know I do not write reviews normally and that is how strongly i feel you will be happy with this choice. Good Luck and You're Welcome :)

    11/6/2013"
    – Anonymous 5/5 Star
  • "DR. Manson is highly skilled, caring and professional with an excellent staff that makes a trip to the dentist a pleasant experience. If you're looking for a great dentist in Long Island City- he's your man!

    10/13/2013"
    N. Ricci 5/5 Star
  • "Competent, caring, gentle, friendly. What more could you want?

    10/11/2013"
    – Immordino, R. 5/5 Sta
  • "I started going there with Dr. Roy Manson and when he retired I now see his son, Steven. They have been the most concerned about caring for you and not causing you any pain which other dentists did cause a great deal of pain in my youth. Very knowledgeable and always trying new and better methods of dentistry. I didn't have to wait long this time either which is a BIG plus.

    10/3/2013"
    - B. Trazino 5/5 Star
  • "Dr. Manson is a wonderful dentist that I have been going to for years and would highly recommend him…

    9/26/2013"
    – Costello, M. 5/5 Star
  • "Dr. Manson and his staff are extremely professional. I feel very confident at having my dental health in their care. Typically, my latest visit was a pleasant experience. My cleaning was performed successfully and efficiently.

    9/22/2013"
    – Daly, W. 5/5 Star
  • "Awesome

    8/23/2013"
    – Cheffolway, L. 5/5 Star
  • "The best dentist in all of the city, been going to Dr. Manson for 20+ years, he is kind, gentle and just an amazing dentist.

    8/23/2013"
    - R. Michele Marigliano 5/5 Star
  • "Dr. Manson is probably one of the BEST dentists in the area. Other then the fact that my entire family goes to him he really DOES care about his patients and his work (something that is hard to find these days.)

    8/21/2013"
    -– Anonymous 5/5 Stars
  • "As always the care was tops!

    7/27/2013"
    –Tavano, C. 5/5 Stars
  • "Every time I leave Dr. Manson's office (and it's been well over ten years since I first saw him), I think "what a fantastic dentist." He is skilled and meticulous in his work and senstitive to the patient's comfort. He makes smart use of the latest dental technology, and he is old-fashioned in the best sense of that description: focusing on quality care for the patient.

    7/5/2013"
    – Dileo, L. 5/5 Stars
  • "Another great and gentle dental experience with Dr. Manson!

    6/26/2013"
    – Anonymous 5/5 Stars
  • "Dr. Manson is the greatest. Puts you at ease and has hands of a surgeon.

    6/1/2013"
    – R. Motta 5/5 Stars
  • "Dr Manson is an excellent doctor.

    5/13/2013"
    – R. Tavano 5/5 Stars
  • "I have been a patient of Dr. Manson's for nearly thirty years, and would recommend him to anyone interested in receiving excellent dentistry without pain or stress.

    5/6/2013"
    – R. Owsley 5/5 Stars
  • "I always feel comfortable with Doctor Manson and i always get praise on my teeth and i said Thanks to Dr. Manson

    5/6/2013"
    – R. Cavaliere 5/5 Stars
  • "Dr. Manson is on my opinion the "Best Dentist" in New York. I have been a patient of Dr Manson fit over 25 years and would recommend him to everyone. As a Dentist he makes his patient feel at home and relaxed. Everyone in the office will make your visit as comfortable as you can be.

    5/1/2013"
    – R. Hidalgo 5/5 Stars