Young Hispanic/Latina child wearing white t-shirt and denim overalls smiles showing off her teeth to female dentist.

At Penn Dental Medicine, our pediatric dentistry residents and faculty doctors work hard to ensure your child has the best dental and overall health possible. As part of our comprehensive services, we provide families with valuable education and information to achieve the best oral hygiene habits at home. 

Recently, our PDM Pediatric Dentistry Team hosted a community session where you—our PDM patients—asked our faculty doctors questions about pediatric dentistry. During this informative session, we answered queries, providing valuable insights. And, now, we’ve put this information together here for you!

Continue reading the first in our three-part series about pediatric dentistry: Part 1: Brushing and Flossing Tips from Top Pediatric Dentists in Philadelphia.

5 Pediatric Dentistry Questions Answered

Check out five questions about brushing and flossing answered by the pediatric dentists Philadelphia families trust.

  1. When do baby teeth develop?
    Baby teeth usually begin to appear around six months of age, but not always. It’s not uncommon for some children’s primary teeth to erupt earlier, and some later. Dr. Evlambia (Betty) Hajishengallis, Professor of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry, Division Chief of Pediatric Dentistry, and director of the postdoctoral pediatric program says there is generally no need to worry unless your child has reached the 12- to 15-month mark without signs of primary teeth pushing through. And, even then, there may not be cause for concern. “It’s important for the parents to ask their parents when they got their own teeth,” Hajishengallis says, “because we do see patients’ parents who developed their baby teeth late.” 
  2. When should you start brushing your child’s teeth?
    You can (and should) start brushing your little one’s teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts. To help get your child accustomed to brushing even before baby teeth make their appearance, you can rub clean gauze or a washcloth along the gumline.
  3. How much toothpaste should you use?
    This is a great and important question, as it’s not uncommon for parents to be concerned about using too much—or not enough—toothpaste. “The amount of toothpaste is really what’s going to have the most impact [on your child’s oral health],” explains Dr. Maria Velasco, assistant professor and director of the pre-doctoral pediatric dental program at Penn Dental Medicine. “We usually recommend a smear of fluoride toothpaste under the age of two, and a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste over the age of two, or by the time they have all their baby teeth.”
  4. How often should you brush your child’s teeth?
    Ideally, children should brush their teeth twice daily. And, because children are still developing their fine motor skills as toddlers, parents must help them brush. “You can let them brush first, but you do have to go in after and brush for them,” Hajishengallis says. “They don’t yet have the dexterity to move their hands and brush their teeth correctly until the ages of seven or eight.”
  5. Is it necessary to floss baby teeth?
    This is another frequent question that is helpful to clarify for parents and caregivers. “The best answer is once you see contacts,” Velasco says. “Contacts are when teeth come together. So if your child happens to be one of those kids that has really tight teeth all around, then you can start flossing right away.”It’s best to floss once or twice a week to help start building a habit, and then as more teeth start coming, gradually increase frequency. As children become older, Deanne Wallaert RDH, public health dental hygiene practitioner for Penn says, “It’s really imperative that you floss every day.” And, as children become more independent—as with brushing—they may also want to floss themselves, but Wallaert cautions, “they can floss a little tough, so it’s good for you to do it,” at least until they’re older.

More Steps Toward Healthy Smiles

If you liked part one of our series from pediatric dentists in Philadelphia, stay tuned for Part Two: Pediatric Dental Nutrition Guide.

And, be sure to take advantage of our complimentary pediatric dentistry resource on preparing for pediatric dentist visits, preventative care, and more: Download here!

You can also make a pediatric dental appointment by calling 215-898-8965.