Baby Teeth: Where Good Oral Health Starts
The first baby teeth, known as primary teeth, usually appear as early as 3-4 months of age, but really start to erupt through the gums between the ages of 6-12 months. All 20 baby teeth will usually erupt by the age of 3 years.
We often hear parents say “they’re only baby teeth … they’ll fall out anyway”. What parents often don’t understand is how very, very important those baby teeth are. Even if you can’t see them and even though they eventually fall out and are replaced with permanent adult teeth, baby teeth are essential to your child’s healthy mouth long term.
- Help children chew food easily and properly
- Help children speak more quickly and clearly
- Hold space in the jaws for permanent teeth that are growing under the gums
Baby teeth are especially vulnerable to decay. This is because their enamel is softer and thinner than the enamel of adult teeth. It’s a sobering fact that more than 50 percent of children will be affected by tooth decay before the age five.
When a baby tooth is lost too early, the permanent teeth can drift into the empty space and make it difficult for other adult teeth to find room when it’s their turn to erupt. So, proper oral hygiene is important as soon as your baby is born. Establishing good oral habits early will go a long way.
When baby teeth emerge through the gum, it’s called teething. It can be a bit painful and it can definitely make your child cranky, and, unfortunately, every child goes through it. Your baby’s gums may be sore and tender, and they may drool a bit.
There are ways to alleviate some of that pain and make your baby, and you, feel a whole lot better. To alleviate teething pain:
- · Gently rub your child's gums with a clean finger, a wet gauze pad, or a small, cool spoon
- · Give your child something to chew on, such as a cool washcloth or a rubber teething ring
- · Offer your child cold foods such as applesauce or yogurt if they are old enough to eat solid foods
If these methods don’t work you might want to give your teething baby a small dose of children's pain reliever, but check with your doctor before giving your baby any medication. If nothing seems to be working and your teething baby continues to be cranky and demonstrate signs of pain, call your paediatric dentist or paediatrician.
How to clean baby teeth
Good oral hygiene begins at birth. So it’s wise to get in the habit of cleaning your baby’s gums even before any primary teeth erupt. Gently clean your baby’s gums after every feeding using a clean, damp washcloth or a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head made just for babies.
As soon as the first baby tooth arrives, you can start brushing it with a toothbrush and toothpaste. To brush baby teeth, use a small amount of non-fluoride toothpaste (sometimes called training toothpaste). Brush the front and back of your baby’s teeth, and lift your baby’s lips to make sure you get the gum line. You should brush your baby’s teeth twice a day.
Try to have your baby realize that you brush your teeth too. It can greatly influence their desire to brush like you do.
When should a baby first see a dentist?
Good habits start early. Your child’s first dental visit should be scheduled shortly after the first tooth appears, and no later than their first birthday. Learn more about your child’s first dental visit. Click here.
Prevention of Cavities
Sometimes just changing your child’s dietary habits can halt the decay. A protective dental sealant can be applied to fill the deep pits and grooves on the chewing surfaces of teeth where the decay-causing bacteria hide. Then they have much less chance of causing decay. The application of fluoride paste either in the clinic or at home may also be recommended.
When cavities do need to be treated, filling the tooth may be the solution and a GIC filling is often used. This contains a slow release fluoride and can help strengthen the teeth. GIC may be used in particular when children are non-cooperative. Unfortunately such fillings do not always last. The softness of the teeth means that even when you think the cavity has been filled, the softer inner layer of the tooth (called dentin) has already been breached, even though you can’t see it yet. If this has happened, the tooth will continue to weaken and the filling may fall out. Because of the softness of the teeth, decay can move into the central pulp or nerve area much easier and more quickly than with adult teeth. In such cases a pulpotomy may be recommended. This will clean out severe decay and infection from the tooth without destroying the tooth.
Sometimes your dentist may recommend that treatment be done under sedation (general anaesthetic) rather than local anaesthetic (when the child is still awake and aware). This is usually recommended if the treatment is extensive as it is much less traumatic for the child.
At Smilefocus we are always happy to discuss the treatment with you in detail. Treatment is always recommended with the long term future of your child’s smile in mind.
Article courtesy of Smilefocus.