It can often be difficult to get your child to brush his or her teeth well. However, even if your child doesn’t brush as he or she should, there are still ways that your dentist can help prevent cavities. One of the most effective ways to prevent tooth decay is through the application of sealants.

What are sealants?

Sealants are made of a thin resin that is applied to the grooves of the chewing surfaces of teeth. Sealants are bonded to the teeth and make the chewing surfaces smoother and, therefore, easier to brush and keep clean. The also act as a physical barrier to plaque, the most common cause of tooth decay.

How are sealants applied?

Sealants are applied in several steps. Teeth are first thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before a solution is applied that will help the sealant adhere effectively. The liquid sealant is then applied and hardened with the aid of a special light. This is a virtually painless treatment; no anesthesia is needed.

When should my child have sealants?

Sealants are virtually pain-free and are suitable for children once their first permanent molars have erupted, which is usually around age 6. A second application may be necessary when the second molars erupt at age 12. We will determine the need for sealants based upon the child’s diet, homecare efforts, tooth anatomy and lastly, biocompatibility concerns.

Click for additional information about Tooth Eruption.

Tooth Eruption Charts

The following chart shows when primary teeth (also called baby teeth or deciduous teeth) erupt and shed. It’s important to note that eruption times can vary from child to child.

Primary Teeth Development Chart

Upper Teeth

Central incisor Lateral incisor Canine (cuspid) First molar Second molar

When tooth emerges

8 to 12 months

9 to 13 months 16 to 22 months 13 to 19 months 25 to 33 months

When tooth falls out

6 to 7 years

7 to 8 years

10 to 12 years

9 to 11 years

10 to 12 years

Lower Teeth

Second molar First molar Canine (cuspid) Lateral incisor Central incisor

When tooth emerges

23 to 31 months 14 to 18 months 17 to 23 months 10 to 16 months 6 to 10 months

When tooth falls out

10 to 12 years 9 to 11 years 9 to 12 years 7 to 8 years 6 to 7 years

As seen from the chart, the first teeth begin to break through the gums at about 6 months of age. Usually, the first two teeth to erupt are the two bottom central incisors (the two bottom front teeth). Next, the top four front teeth emerge. After that, other teeth slowly begin to fill in, usually in pairs – one each side of the upper or lower jaw – until all 20 baby teeth (10 in the upper jaw and 10 in the lower jaw) have erupted. The complete set of primary teeth is typically in the mouth by 2 1/2 to 3 years of age.

Other primary tooth eruption facts:

  • A general rule of thumb is that for every 6 months of life, approximately 4 teeth will erupt.
  • Girls generally precede boys in tooth eruption.
  • Lower teeth usually erupt before upper teeth.
  • Teeth in both jaws usually erupt in pairs–one on the right and one on the left.
  • Primary teeth are smaller in size and whiter in color than the permanent teeth that will follow.
  • By the time a child is 2 to 3 years of age, all primary teeth should have erupted.

Shortly after age 4, the jaw and facial bones of the child begin to grow, creating spaces between the primary teeth. This is a perfectly natural growth process that provides the necessary space for the larger, permanent teeth to erupt into. Between the ages of 6 and 12, a mixture of both primary teeth and permanent teeth reside in the mouth.

Why Is it Important to Care for Baby Teeth?

While it’s true that primary teeth are only in the mouth a short period of time, they play a vital role in the following ways:

  • They reserve space for their permanent counterparts.
  • They give the face its normal appearance.
  • They aid in the development of clear speech.
    • They help attain good nutrition (missing or decayed teeth make it difficult to chew causing children to reject foods).
    • They help give a healthy start to the permanent teeth (decay and infection in baby teeth can cause dark spots on the permanent teeth developing beneath it).

Next – When Will Permanent Teeth Erupt? Click for Permanent Tooth Eruption Schedule

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