Dental Timeline for a Growing Child

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that every child have a dental home established, along with a dental exam by the age of 1. The reason is for proper education and establishment of a prevention protocol. Studies are showing that early care is leading to improved prevention for children, resulting in less problems with their teeth as they get older.

AGE 0-6 Months: Edentulous Stage

  • Wipe down your child’s mouth with a damp cloth after feedings, even when no teeth are present. It is especially important to cleanse their mouths before bedtime.
  • Pacifier/Thumb/Finger sucking habits- It is normal for infants to have one of these habits. Sometimes, it can cause damage to teeth and cause jaw discrepancies if these habits persist long term. 
  • Do NOT have your child go to bed with a bottle in his/her mouth

  • Avoid sharing utensils and drinks with young children due to spread of oral bacteria that can cause cavities.

AGE 6 months-1 Year: Primary teeth or Baby dentition

  • The first baby tooth normally appears at about 6 months. Some children get teeth early, and some children don’t get their first tooth until 1 year.

  • Establish a dental home and have your child’s teeth and/or gums examined by one year of age

  • Per the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), transitioning to a regular cup should occur by age 1. If your child has juice, it should be limited to 4-6 ounces per day, at meal time, drank out of a regular cup

  • Spacing between teeth is normal and good

  • Teeth often erupt “crooked” and normally straighten out over time

  • Brush teeth as soon as they erupt, and brush everywhere along the gum line

AGE 1-5 Years: Primary dentition

  • Normally, the last baby teeth to erupt are the 2nd molars, which erupt around age 2

  • Flossing should be implemented when the teeth start to touch, and is very important between the back molars to prevent cavities occurring between the teeth

  • Dental x-rays help visualize between teeth to assess for cavities, but depending on the child’s cooperation level, may not be recorded until they are 3 or 4 years old

  • Tooth grinding is very common, and normally no treatment is recommended.

  • If your child cannot spit, then a smear of fluoridated toothpaste should be used to minimize swallowing. Once your child can spit, a pea sized amount can be used

Age 6-12 Years: Mixed dentition

  • Loss of the first baby tooth normally occurs around age 6 or 7

  • Tenderness when chewing is common when teeth are loose

  • We recommend for the children to wiggle their teeth when they get loose

  • Sometimes, baby teeth do not get loose on their own, and permanent teeth can start to erupt. If this occurs, contact your dentist to see if extraction is indicated.

  • Sealants are recommended when the permanent first molars are erupted
  • A panoramic x-ray to assess oral structures and tooth growth and development
  • Consider mouth guards for children playing sports

Age 13-18: Permanent Dentition

  • Sealants on 2nd molars are recommended (normally erupt around age 12)

  • Flossing and starting good habits is crucial at this age, as good (and bad) habits will carry into adulthood

  • Orthodontic treatment is normally performed in this stage, although some children are seen for orthodontics as early as age 6-7 depending on the orthodontic problem

  • Diet should be monitored closely, especially consumption of sugary drinks such as Gatorade, energy drinks, pop, and juice

  • Hormonal changes during puberty can affect oral health, and proper oral hygiene becomes even more crucial

  • Wisdom teeth should be evaluated throughout this stage for potential extraction to minimize risks and to improve healing time