Early Dental Care

Premiere Children’s Dentistry in Brandywine, Hockessin, Middletown, Wilmington, Millsboro, & Ocean View, DE

Here at Dental Associates of Delaware, our dentists in Brandywine, Hockessin, Middletown, Wilmington, Millsboro, and Ocean View, DE and their teams believe that early dental care can promote a lifetime of healthy smiles for your child. Our primary goal is to help your child achieve and maintain optimal oral health by using advances in dental techniques and technologies and by keeping their scheduled dental exams frequent and regular. We know that approaching dental care for your child can be confusing and daunting. In order to help you navigate the world of children’s dentistry, we have offered information and advice for parents below.


Normally the first tooth erupts between ages 6 to 12 months. Gums may be sore and tender until the age of 3. Rubbing sore gums gently with a clean finger, the back of a cold spoon or a cold wet cloth helps soothe the gums. Teething rings work well, but avoid teething biscuits—they contain sugar that is not good for baby teeth.

While your baby is teething, it is important to monitor the teeth for signs of baby bottle decay. Examine the teeth, especially on the inside or the tongue side, every two weeks for dull spots (whiter than the tooth surface) or lines. A bottle containing anything other than water left in an infant’s mouth while sleeping can cause decay. This happens because sugar in the liquid mixes with bacteria in dental plaque, forming acids that attack the tooth enamel. Each time a child drinks liquids containing sugar, acids attack the teeth for about 20 minutes. When awake, saliva carries away the liquid. During sleep, the saliva flow significantly decreases and liquids pool around the child’s teeth for long periods, covering the teeth in acids.

Your Infant’s New Teeth

The primary, or “baby,” teeth play a crucial role in dental development. Without them, a child cannot chew food properly and has difficulty speaking clearly. Primary teeth are vital to development of the jaws and for guiding the permanent (secondary) teeth into place when they start replacing the primary teeth around age 6.

Since primary teeth guide the permanent teeth into place, infants with missing primary teeth or infants who prematurely lose primary teeth may require a space maintainer, a device used to hold the natural space open. Without a maintainer, the teeth can tilt toward the empty space and cause permanent teeth to come in crooked. Missing teeth should always be mentioned to your family dentist. The way your child cares for his/her primary teeth plays a critical role in how he/she treats the permanent teeth. Children and adults are equally susceptible to plaque and gum problems—hence, the need for regular care and dental checkups starting at a young age.

Your Child’s First Dental Visit as Part of Early Dental Care

Many parents ask us, “At what age do I bring my child to see the dentist for the first time?” We recommend children be seen for their first examination between the ages of 2 and 4 years old when primary teeth are visible. Our most important goal is that the child is comfortable. Most times, the first visit simply involves meeting the dentist and sitting in the dental chair to familiarize the child with the office. We will then perform a visual and physical inspection of the mouth. Of course, prizes and games are always the best part of the visit!

Why Primary Teeth Are Important

Primary teeth are important for the following reasons:

Good teeth allow a child to eat and maintain good nutrition.

Healthy teeth allow for clear pronunciation and speech habits.

The self-image that healthy teeth give a child is immeasurable.

Primary teeth also guide eruption of the permanent teeth.

Infant Tooth Eruption

A child’s teeth actually start forming before birth. As early as 4 months of age, the primary or “baby” teeth push through the gums—the lower central incisors are first, then the upper central incisors. The remainder of the 20 primary teeth typically erupt by age 3, but the place and order varies.

Permanent teeth begin eruption around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until around age 21. Adults have 28 secondary (permanent) teeth—32 including the third molars (wisdom teeth).

Good Diet and Healthy Teeth

The teeth, bones and soft tissue of the mouth require a healthy, well-balanced diet. A variety of foods from the five food groups help minimize (and avoid) cavities and other dental problems. Most snacks that children eat cause cavities, so children should only receive healthy foods like vegetables, low-fat yogurt and cheeses, which promote strong teeth.

Of course, it is very important that parents make sure their child maintains a regular oral health routine of brushing and flossing. Continuous at-home care combined with frequent dental visits will help ensure your child’s lifelong oral health.

Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Tooth decay in infants can be minimized or totally prevented by not allowing sleeping infants to breast or bottle-feed. Infants that need a bottle to comfortably fall asleep should be given a water-filled bottle or a pacifier. Our office is dedicated to fighting baby bottle tooth decay. Let us know if you notice any signs of decay or anything unusual in your child’s mouth.

If you have more questions regarding early dental care or the types of dental services that our dentists offer for children, please contact us at our dental offices in Brandywine, Hockessin, Middletown, Wilmington, Millsboro, or Ocean View, DE today. We offer comprehensive family, cosmetic and restorative dentistry including dental implants, teeth whitening, veneers, Invisalign® and more for patients of all ages. We look forward to meeting you and seeing you and your child smile!