Children's Teeth

Children are special in many unique ways, and this holds true for their teeth as well. Children’s teeth, also known as milk teeth, are unique as they are smaller, weaker and hence more prone to damage and decay. As the oral cavity of children is more exposed to variety of sticky and sugary foods, special care needs to be taken for children’s teeth.

First (or 'baby' or ‘milk') teeth usually start to appear when your child is around 6 months old. The baby teeth are 20 in number and should appear by the age of 2. The first permanent 'adult' molars (back teeth) will appear at about 6 years. The baby teeth start to fall out at about 6 to 7 years. The permanent 'adult' teeth will then replace the 'baby' teeth. All permanent teeth should be in place by the age of 13, except the ‘wisdom' teeth. These may appear any time between 18 and 25 years of age. But is it is important to remember that all children are different and develop at different rates.

It is recommended that children should go to the dentist with their parents as soon as possible. Ideally, visit your dentist once during your pregnancy to learn about oral care in newborns. The second visit can be done when your baby’s first teeth appear. Once teeth appear in the child’s mouth, you should then take them regularly as your dentist recommends. This will let them get used to the noises, smells and surroundings and prepare them for future visits. The earlier these visits start, the more relaxed the children will be.

Cleaning your child's teeth should be part of their daily hygiene routine.

When the first teeth start to appear, try using a toothbrush designed for children, with a small smear of fluoride toothpaste. In young children, you may find it easier to stand or sit behind your child, cradling their chin in your hand so you can reach their top and bottom teeth more easily. Once your child is able to brush on their own, make brushing a routine for them - just before your child goes to bed and at least one other time during the day. It is important to supervise your child's brushing until they are at least seven Remember to encourage your child, as praise will often get results!

There are many different types of children's toothbrushes and size variations, based on the age of the user. There are also varieties based on colour, those that change colour, some with favourite cartoon characters on the handle etc. These all encourage children to brush their teeth. The most important thing is to use a right-headed toothbrush with soft, nylon bristles, suitable for the age of your child. Using a power toothbrush can help to make brushing fun and make sure your child brushes for the correct amount of time

Toothache is painful and upsetting, especially in children. There can be many causes, and a proper check up by a dentist is important to find the right cause and solution. More often than not, the main cause is tooth decay. Teething is another problem. It starts at around 6 months, and it can continue when the adult teeth start to appear.

If your child needs pain relief, make sure you visit a dentist to identify the cause. Never self medicate your child. Remember to check with your doctor or pharmacist that you are being prescribed sugar-free medicines at all times.

Children are often known to have a ‘sweet tooth’, and often enjoy sugary foods. But its important to understand that the main cause of tooth decay is not the amount of sugar or acid in the diet, but how often it is consumed. The more often your child has sugary or acidic foods or drinks, the more likely they are to have decay. So it is important to have sugary and acidic foods just at mealtimes. If you want to give your child a snack, try to stick to healthier foods such as vegetables, dried fruit and fruits.

Avoid drinks containing sugars, including fruit juices, between meals. Give them water or milk instead. For babies, it is important to avoid night time feeding, and if so, don't add sugar to their milk, and encourage a few sips of water after feeding to cleanse the mouth. It is also worth remembering that some processed baby foods contain quite a lot of sugar. Try checking the list of ingredients: the higher up the list sugar is, the more there is in the product. Thorough brushing with a fluoride toothpaste last thing at night, and at least one other time during the day, will help to prevent tooth decay.

Children can sense fear in their parents, so it is important not to let your child feel that a visit to the dentist is something to be worried about. Regular visits to the dental team are essential in helping your child get used to the surroundings and what happens there.

A child can be much more anxious if it is their first visit to a dental practice. If you have any fears of your own about going to the dentist, don't let your child hear you talk about them. Never discourage the child by scaring them to visit the dentist, as this makes them feel a dental treatment is a ‘punishment’ to a bad behaviour. If your child is scheduled to receive a dental treatment, try to explain to them at home in simple terms what the doctor may be doing during the treatment. Do not encourage tantrums during treatment, or express fear when your child is on the dental chair. Pain and distress can happen at any time in a dental visit and it is important to prepare your child with regular visits to acclimatise them to the sights, sounds and atmosphere of a dental clinic.

Last updated on 20 November, 2018.

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