Healthy kids have strong healthy teeth
A child's first teeth are important, as speech and the child's appearance are strongly influenced by emerging teeth. Baby teeth provide the foundation for the adult teeth that will replace them one day.
Maintaining healthy teeth forms part of the exploration process for infants as their diet matures and they begin chewing increasingly complex foods. The ability to chew foods well is very important in the digestive process and getting off to the right start helps prevent other problems further down the track.
Dentistry for young people is all about education and prevention. Increase the likelihood of your children having strong cavity free teeth by including the following tips in your child's routine:
- Even before they have teeth, infants should have their gums cleaned. Use a soft gauze pad or infant washcloth after feedings and before bedtime.
- Avoid putting your baby to bed with his or her bottle.
- Brush your children's teeth until they are three years old, then start encouraging them to join in, teaching them as they grow older.
- Children under four should use a simple brushing technique such as a small circular brushing motion.
It is especially important to keep your child enthusiastic and motivated about caring for his or her teeth. So whether you're teaching your children how to brush properly or taking them to the dentist for a check-up, remember it's up to you to set a good example. And don't forget to praise your child afterwards for clean teeth and a healthy smile!
Brushing your teeth together sets a good example and helps your child learn by watching and imitating you. It can also create a consistent and fun environment for tooth brushing.
Teething is an exciting time for parents as it is a physical sign that their baby is growing older and nothing melts the heart more than a smile from your loved one with little teeth showing! The appearance of teeth also means your little one can start eating more solid foods which accelerates their development.
But teething can also be a time of stress for baby, as this period is often accompanied by sore or tender gums that may appear red or swollen. Parents can feel frustrated as they try to relieve their baby's discomfort. Different things you can try are:
- A cold teething ring
- Gently rubbing the gums with a finger or the back of a cold spoon
- Ask your pharmacist for a pain reliever to suit your baby. Always seek medical advice if symptoms persist.
Once your baby has teeth, it's time to start brushing. Start by using a very soft toothbrush with water only. At this stage, it's important to establish a brushing routine that your baby enjoys. Find out more about caring for your child's teeth here.
Tooth development and timetable
Baby's first teeth (the front four) usually appear sometime between the age of six months and one year. And by the time your child is three years old, he or she should have a complete set of primary (or baby) teeth. This is normally 10 in the upper jaw and 10 in the lower jaw. Baby teeth will be replaced by permanent teeth from around the age of six until age 12 or 13. At this time, your child will have 28 of their 32 permanent teeth. The last teeth to appear are the wisdom teeth, which may start to erupt from the age of 16 onwards.
How will my baby's teeth develop?
Usually, your baby's front four teeth (two on the top and two on the bottom) are the first to appear, sometime between six months and one year of age. These are often accompanied by sore or tender gums that may appear red or swollen. This stage is known as teething.
At around three years old, most children should have a complete set of 20 primary (or baby) teeth. It is very important to take good care of these first teeth, even though they will be replaced by permanent teeth. This is because your child's baby teeth hold the spaces for the permanent teeth to come in; if a baby tooth is lost, the permanent tooth could come in crooked.
When will my child's baby teeth start to fall out?
Your child will start to lose their baby teeth around age six. The process of permanent teeth replacing primary teeth occurs until age 12 or 13. By the time your child's second molar teeth erupt at around age 12, they will have a complete set of 28 permanent teeth.
Because the process of replacing primary teeth with permanent teeth occurs gradually, keeping all the teeth clean may be a challenge. That's because your child will have larger permanent teeth growing next to smaller primary teeth, and this unevenness means lots of spaces for food and plaque to collect.
What is "baby bottle tooth decay"?
If a baby is put to bed with a bottle containing milk (even breast milk), formula or juice, the sugar in the drink and the bacteria in your baby's mouth can interact to form an acid that attacks the enamel in your baby's teeth and may cause tooth decay. Fortunately, this is easy to prevent; if your baby needs a bedtime bottle, fill it with water instead.
When should I first take my baby to the dentist?
Take your baby with you to your hygiene visits or dental exams so that your baby gets use to the environment. Then as they grow older they can be given rides in the chair and slowly introduced to the instruments. Diagnosing problems in children at an early age makes treatment easier as minor problems can be identified and treated before they become larger dental concerns.
In New Zealand the government provide free dental services through the Ministry of Health. At Dental Care West we are also able to provide check ups and treatment for private patients, private normal fees will apply.
For more information on caring for your child's teeth, visit our young patients FAQ page