As a general dentist in Gladstone we provide care to the entire family. As a parent you may have multiple questions how to best care for your children’s teeth. The following information should help you with childhood dental care. If not, I encourage you to call and ask my staff concerns or questions you may have about dental care for your child.

Some Interesting Information About Teeth

During our lifetime, we have two sets of teeth. The primary (baby) teeth begin to erupt (come into the mouth) at about 3-8 months of age and all twenty (20) primary teeth are in place by age three.

Primary teeth are very important! They allow the growing child to eat, speak and smile. They serve to guide the permanent teeth into their positions. Keeping primary teeth healthy is a big step towards healthy straight adult teeth.

We suggest your child have their first dental visit at around one year old. At this “well baby” dental check we make sure your child’s teeth and mouth are developing properly and go over some information to help you help your child have a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

The adult teeth (permanent) teeth begin to erupt when a child is 5 or 6 years old. Adults develop thirty-two (32) teeth. We get:

  • 4 upper and lower incisors teeth
  • 2 upper and lower canines
  • 4 upper and lower premolars teeth
  • 6 upper and lower molars. (The very last molar is called the wisdom tooth)


Normally the first tooth erupts between ages 6 to 12 months. Gums can be sore, tender and sometimes irritable during those times the baby teeth are erupting. 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 and 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.

Infant’s New Teeth

The primary, or “baby,” teeth play a crucial role in childhood dental care. 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 replace the primary teeth around age six.

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.

A Child’s First Dental Cleaning

With the child being seen at the age of 1 for a “well baby” check he or she will be comfortable with the dentist and the dental office. After the age of three, we want to see children twice a year for the important preventive visits where we examine and polish the teeth and yearly take special dental x-rays to help spot in between the teeth cavities. We also use fluoride to help your child grow up free of dental decay.

Why Primary Teeth are Important

Primary teeth are important for several reasons. Foremost, 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.

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 helps minimize (and avoid) cavities and other dental problems. Many snacks that children eat can contribute to cavities, so children should only receive healthy foods like vegetables, low-fat yogurt and cheeses, which promote strong 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 to erupt at about 5-6 years of age.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Baby bottle decay in infants and young children is caused by putting milk or juice in the child’s bottle or sippy-cup and allowing them to have this in their mouth while they sleep. To avoid this severe destructive problem only place water in the baby bottle at bedtime, or use a pacifier.

Tooth Decay Prevention

What is the most common childhood disease? Cavities! They can be prevented. Tooth decay or cavities are caused by colonies of germs in our mouth [plaque] that acts on carbohydrates (especially sugars) that we eat and the side effect is harmful acid that dissolves away tooth surfaces causing what we call a cavity. 80% of children by age 12 have had a least one cavity.

What can you and your dentist do to prevent cavities in your child’s teeth?

Teach your child good oral hygiene habits. Teach your child to brush twice daily for 2 minutes and enforce that they do this. Teach them the Why, How, When of oral hygiene and be a good example for them by your own oral hygiene.

Young children require the parent to finish up brushing for them, and continue this until the child is old enough to tie his or her own shoes.


The grooves and depressions that form the chewing surfaces of the back teeth are extremely difficult (if not impossible) to clean of bacteria and food. As the bacteria reacts with the food, acids form and break down the tooth enamel, causing cavities. Recent studies indicate that 88 percent of total cavities in American school children are caused this way.

Sealants protect these susceptible areas by sealing the grooves and depressions, preventing bacteria and food particles from residing in these areas. Sealant material is a resin typically applied to the back teeth, molars and premolars and areas prone to cavities. It lasts for several years but needs to be checked during regular appointments.


Fluoride is a substance that helps teeth become stronger and resistant to decay. Kansas City water is treated with fluoride while Gladstone water is not. Drinking water treated with fluoride and brushing and flossing regularly ensures significantly lower cavities. Dentists can evaluate the level of fluoride in a primary drinking water source and recommend fluoride supplements (usually in tablets or drops), if necessary.

Regular Children’s Dental Care

Take your child to the dentist twice a year for a professional cleaning and examination. Many problems can be easily and inexpensively handled if spotted early. The dentist will check for health of teeth, gums and check on the way your child’s teeth are coming together in their alignment (the bite).