Our first set of teeth start to appear (erupt) in our mouth at approximately 6 months old starting with the upper and lower front teeth (incisors). Each tooth appears in the mouth gradually over time until we are around 2-3 years of age when we will have our full complement of 20 primary teeth, 2 incisors, a canine and 2 molars in each quarter of our mouths.
Our first adult tooth appears at around 6 years of age and is the first molar which comes up behind the last primary tooth. It is around this time that our first primary tooth starts to become mobile and come out as the adult tooth pushes through from beneath. This is typically one of the front incisor teeth and can result in the stereotypical gappy toothed child smile.
When should I first take my child to the dentist?
It is recommended that you start bringing your child to the dentist every time you attend for your appointments. The dental surgery can be an intimidating place for small children, with lots of unusual sounds, smells and people. Getting your child used to and relaxed when attending the dentist will help to promote a long happy relationship with regular routine dental care. Its always beneficial to have your child’s teeth checked by the dentist as soon as they start appearing in the mouth at about 6 months and then at routine check ups from then on. This will help to detect any developmental problems or damage to your child’s teeth early and limit the necessity for extensive treatment.
How should I clean my child’s teeth?
Cleaning your child’s teeth should be a completed twice daily as part of a regular routine to help it to become habit. Seating your child in your lap leaning backwards against you, should allow the best access for brushing your child’s teeth. For children up to 3 years of age, use a smear of 1000ppm fluoride toothpaste on a small headed soft bristle toothbrush working methodically around the mouth starting and ending in the same place, circular brush movements each tooth individually for 2 minutes. Children over the age of 3 should be using a pea-size amount of 1350ppm to 1500ppm fluoride toothpaste and encouraged to spit out once they are finished but not to rinse out, allowing the residual paste to continue protecting the teeth.
Brushing in-front of a mirror to allow your child to see the brushing process will help to teach your child about brushing technique. Once your child feels confident to brush on their own, it is advised to supervise the brushing up until the age of 7 and to repeat the brushing yourself if you feel it needs to be better. The occasional use of disclosing tablets to show your child the areas they have missed when brushing can be both fun and educational in teaching your child about the need for brushing away these invisible bugs (bacteria). Using 2-minute egg timers and brushing charts giving praise for completing their toothbrushing and brushing for correct length of time will help to encouraged your child to keep up a regular routine.
How do I prevent my child from developing tooth decay?
A common misconception with tooth decay is that the amount of sugary or acidic food we consume is linked to increased tooth decay. In fact, its how regularly we consume sugary or acidic food throughout the day that affects the decay we suffer with.
Each time we eat or drink, the bacteria in the plaque on our teeth uses the sugar to create an acid which breaks down our tooth enamel. Our saliva works to neutralise the acid but it takes approximately 45 minutes to bring our mouths back to normal levels. If we limit the number of times our teeth are under attack to 5 times a day (three meals and two snacks), we will help to prevent diet being a cause of decay.
From a general healthy diet standpoint, a good rule when deciding upon what foods to give to your child is to check the amount of sugar it contains. Manufacturers have to list the ingredients on the label in the order of how much of each thing they contain. The nearer to the top the sugar has been listed, the more sugar the food contains. Try to keep sugary drinks to mealtimes and only allow water between meals. It is also worth considering when weaning babies that processed baby foods often contain high amounts of sugar.
Preventive treatments for your child’s teeth
Once your child’s adult molars have come throughout a fissure sealant can be placed on the biting surfaces. A special resin plastic coating is applied and set with a light to fill in the grooves on the biting surface to prevent food and bacteria trapping deep in the fissure pattern and causing decay. Fluoride varnish can be applied to the tooth surfaces to strengthen the enamel making it more resistant to decay. This high concentration fluoride varnish can be applied to teeth if required every 6 months.