5 Things You Need To Know About Baby Teeth
Despite the fact that they will eventually fall out, the importance of deciduous or ‘baby’ teeth cannot be overstated, says Dr Paul O’Dwyer, group clinical advisor at Dental Care Ireland. A good primary dentition helps your child to establish strong biting and chewing patterns, develop speech, and hold healthy space in the jaws for permanent teeth that are growing under the gums.
Baby teeth are just as prone to cavities as permanent or ‘adult’ teeth. When a baby tooth falls out prematurely or is lost to decay, other teeth can tilt into the empty spaces and it can cause delay in eruption, as the ‘gate-keeper’ is now lost. Teaching children to look after their baby teeth from an early age, will also help pave the way for a healthy adult mouth.
Development of Baby Teeth
Even before they appear, baby teeth have begun their journey as far back as the second trimester of pregnancy. They usually start to erupt into the baby’s mouth at about six months, although sometimes earlier. Typically, most children will have a full set of 20 baby teeth by the time they reach three years old.
The baby teeth usually start to fall out from about six years of age. The first permanent molar teeth are the first permanent teeth to arrive and replace them, quickly followed by the permanent incisor teeth.
This pattern of loss and replacement continues up to around the age of 11 or 12. Taking care of our baby teeth, therefore, is an essential part of developing good oral health for the future.
Teeth Tips for Toddlers & Babies
1. Getting Started
As the first baby teeth arrive at approximately six months, it is often a good idea to introduce the concept of oral hygiene at this time. In my experience, parents often find it challenging to introduce brushing and establish a good oral hygiene regime at this early stage. As all parents will know, toddlers and infants put everything in their mouths! So, why not a toothbrush? Aside from being a dental surgeon, I am also a parent. I used to introduce a kids’ toothbrush at bath time, allowing my toddlers to place the brush in their mouths and get used to the idea of brushing.
2. Visiting The Dentist
Early attendance at the dentist is the cornerstone of good dental health. The ideal time to bring your child to the dentist is before the age of two, and preferably when the first tooth arrives. This gives you, the parent, an opportunity to ask dietary and hygiene questions, and seek professional advice on best maintenance. It also allows your dentist to establish a baseline record of your child’s dental health and development, further safe-guarding the establishment of good dental health and preventing the premature loss of vital baby teeth through decay.
3. Establishing A Brushing Routine
To keep their mouths healthy and help establish an oral health routine, regular brushing is key. For 0-2 year olds, brushing with a toothbrush and water is best.
From 2-7 years, children should brush twice a day with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Parents will still need to provide assistance and supervision with brushing, whilst at the same time encouraging children to manage their own brushing routine. For children under 7, a mild scrub technique is generally recommended but your dentist is best placed to advise you on the exact technique suitable for your child.
4. Reducing Bottle Feeding
Most babies will be able to use a cup from approximately six months, and to avoid tooth decay, bottle feeding should ideally be decreased from 12 months old. Parents should also avoid giving fizzy drinks in a bottle. Cooled boiled water and milk are the ideal fluids for development and growth.
5. Baby Teeth & Soothers
Overuse of a soother can have implications for tooth crowding in the longer-term, and use of soothers should therefore be avoided unless necessary. If choosing a soother, however, opt for an orthodontic one, available in most pharmacies. Avoid dipping a soother in sugar or any sugary snacks.
Dr Paul O’Dwyer BDS, MSc is group clinical advisor at Dental Care Ireland, a new Irish-owned network of established dental practices nationwide. For further information, visit www.dentalcareireland.ie