Dental Health Topics

Why are the primary teeth important?


It is very important to maintain the health of the primary teeth.  Neglected cavities can and frequently do lead to problems which affect developing permanent teeth.  Primary teeth or baby teeth are important for (1) proper chewing and eating, (2) providing space for the permanent teeth and guiding them into the correct position, and (3) permitting normal development of the jaw bones and muscles.  Primary teeth also affect the development of speech and add to an attractive appearance.  While the front 4 teeth last until 6-7 years of age, the back teeth (cuspids and molars) are not replaced until age 10-13.


Eruption of your child’s teeth


Children’s teeth begin forming before birth.  As early as 4 months, the first primary (or baby) teeth to erupt through the gums are the lower central incisors, followed closely by the upper central incisors.  All 20 primary teeth usually appear by age 3, but the pace and order of the eruption varies.

Permanent teeth begin appearing around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower incisors.  This process continues until approximately age 21.

Adults have 28 permanent teeth, or up to 32 including the third molars (or wisdom teeth).


Dental emergencies


Dental emergencies occur all the time to children.  To aid the child, always remain calm while you assess the injury.  Please follow the institutions below in the case of an emergency.

Toothache:  Clean the area of the affected tooth.  Rinse the mouth thoroughly with warm water or use dental floss to dislodge any food that may be impacted.  If the pain still exists, contact your child’s dentist.  Do not place aspirin or heat on the gum or on the aching tooth.  If the face is swollen, apply cold compresses and contact your dentist immediately.

Knocked Out Permanent Tooth: If possible, find the tooth.  Handle it by the crown, not by the root. You may rinse the tooth with water only.  DO NOT clean with soap, scrub or handle the tooth unnecessarily.  Inspect the tooth for fractures.  If it is sound, try to reinsert it in the socket.  Have the patient hold the tooth in place by biting on gauze.  If you cannot reinsert the tooth, transport the tooth in a cup containing the patient’s saliva or milk.  The patient must see a dentist IMMEDIATELY!  Time is a critical factor in saving the tooth.

Knocked Out Baby Tooth:  Contact your dentist during business hours.  This is not usually an emergency, and in most cases, no treatment is necessary.

Chipped of Fractured Permanent Tooth:  Contact your dentist immediately.  Quick action can save the tooth, prevent infection and reduce the need for extensive dental treatment.  Rinse the mouth with water and apply cold compresses to reduce swelling.  If possible, locate and save any broken tooth fragments and bring them with you to the dentist.


Dental radiographs (x-rays)


Radiographs (X-Rays) are an important and necessary part of your child’s dental diagnostic process.  Without them, certain dental conditions can and will be missed.

Radiographs detect much more than cavities.  For example, radiographs may be needed to survey erupting teeth, diagnose bone diseases, evaluate the results of an injury, or plan orthodontic treatment.  Radiographs allow dentists to diagnose and treat health conditions that cannot be detected during a clinical examination.  If dental problems are found and treated early, dental care is more comfortable for your child and more affordable for you.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends radiographs and examinations every six months for children with a high risk of tooth decay.  On average, most dentists request radiographs approximately once a year.  Approximately every 3 years, it is a good idea to obtain a complete set of radiographs, either a panoramic and bitewings or periapicals and bitewings.

Dentists are particularly careful to minimize the exposure of their patients to radiation.  With contemporary safeguards, the amount of radiation received in a dental X-ray examination is extremely small.  The risk is negligible.  In fact, the dental radiographs represent a far smaller risk than an undetected and untreated dental problem.  Today’s equipment filters out unnecessary X-rays and restricts the X-ray beam to the area of interest.  Our digital sensors assure that your child receives a minimal amount of radiation exposure.


Baby bottle tooth decay (early childhood caries)


One serious form of decay among young children is baby bottle tooth decay.  This condition is caused by frequent and long exposures of an infant’s teeth to liquids that contain sugar.  Among these liquids are milk (including breast milk), formula, fruit juice and other sweetened drinks.

Putting a baby to bed for a nap or at night with bottle other than water can cause serious and rapid tooth decay.  Sweet liquid pools around the child’s teeth giving plaque bacteria an opportunity to produce acids that attack tooth enamel.  If you must give the baby a bottle as a comforter at bedtime, it should contain only water.  If your child won’t fall asleep without the bottle and its usual beverage, gradually dilute the bottle’s contents with water over a period of two to three weeks.

After each feeding, wipe the baby’s gums and teeth with a damp washcloth or gauze pad to remove plaque.  The easiest way to do this is to sit down, place the child’s head in your lap or lay the child on a dressing table or the floor.  Whatever position you use, be sure you can see into the child’s mouth easily.


Sippy cups


Sippy cups should be used as a training tool from the bottle to a cup and should be discontinued by the first birthday.  If your child uses a sippy cup throughout the day, fill the sippy cup with water only (except at mealtimes).  By filling the sippy cup with liquids that contain sugar (including milk, fruit juice, sports drinks, etc.) and allowing a child to drink from it throughout the day, it soaks the child’s teeth in cavity causing bacteria.



A sealant is a protective coating that is applied to the chewing surfaces (grooves) of the back teeth (premolars and molars), where four out of five cavities in children are found.  This sealant acts as a barrier to food, plaque and acid, thus protecting the decay-prone areas of the teeth.


Orthodontic topics


Developing malocclusions, or bad bites, can get recognized as early as 2-3 years of age.  Often, early steps can be taken to reduce the need for major orthodontic treatment at a later age.

Stage I – Early Treatment:  This period of treatment encompasses ages 2 to 6 years of age.  At this young age we are concerned with underdeveloped dental arches, the premature loss of primary teeth, and harmful habits such as finger or thumb sucking.  Treatment initiated in this stage of development is often very successful and many times, though not always, can eliminate the need for future orthodontic/orthopedic treatment.

Stage II – Mixed Dentition:  This period covers the ages of 6 to 12 years, with the eruption of the permanent incisor (front) teeth and 6 year molars.  Treatment concerns deal with jaw malrelationships and dental realignment problems.  This is an excellent stage to start treatment, when indicated, as your child’s hard and soft tissues are usually very responsive to orthodontic or orthopedic forces.

Stage III – Adolescent Dentition:  This stage deals with the permanent teeth and the development of the final bite relationship.


Advantages of orthodontic treatment:


Braces can be life-changing for a child by improving their self-esteem and self-confidence. We offer no-interest payment plans to make your child’s new amazing smile affordable.


(Located Inside White Sands Mall)


3199 N. White Sands Blvd., Suite D-9

Alamogordo, NM 88310

PHONE: 575-434-8776

FAX: 575-437-2581




Monday – Wednesday

 * 8:30 a.m.  – 5:30 p.m.

Friday by appointment only



Thursday *8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.


(Located Inside Sierra Mall)


721 Mechem Dr. Suite #5

Ruidoso, NM 88345

PHONE: 575-257-0246

FAX: 575-257-0249

General Dentistry & Orthodontics for Children Ages 19 & Younger

Kenneth W. Childress, DDS

Medicaid Accepted & Most Dental Insurances

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