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Child Dental Health

Caring for children's and toddlers teeth

Start a daily cleaning routine as soon as your baby's first tooth emerges through the gum, usually around 6 months of age. Brush teeth once to twice a day, especially before bedtime.

1. Before teeth emerge use a soft cloth to wipe baby's gums to remove plaque each day.

2. As teeth emerge use a soft brush and water and gently scrub.

3. Cradle child's head in one hand while you brush with the other.

TOOTHPASTE

As young children tend to swallow toothpaste and eat it, use a low fluoride toothpaste. The portion should be pea size. Get this from your pharmacy or supermarket.

FLOSSING

You can start to floss your toddlers teeth as soon as two teeth abut each other. (usually when the no 4 and no 5 baby molar teeth emerge at around 18 months of age.)

Floss between the last two teeth in all four quadrants or corners of the mouth.

SUPERVISION

Until your children are 8-9 years old or until you are confident that good techniques are being used, supervise their tooth cleaning.

Before the age of two, children lack coordination to brush properly. Try to make tooth brushing a fun, pleasant experience.

What is a Tooth Eruption ?

A tooth eruption is the time at which the new tooth emerges through the gum into the mouth.

The graph on the right shows the eruption dates for children aged from 0 - 12. The blue are the primary (baby) teeth and the white are the permanent (adult) teeth.

In baby or primary teeth the eruption dates vary considerably. The presence of some front incisor teeth can normally be expected by the age of 12-15 months.

The lower front incisor teeth usually appear first followed by the upper front incisors. After all the incisors have emerged, there is usually a delay before the canines come through.

They normally appear after the first primary molars are in place. The last teeth to appear are the second primary molars. Some parents become concerned if the baby teeth do not come through in the normal order or on schedule.

It must be emphasised that there is much variation in eruption dates of children's teeth.

The arrival of second teeth

The first permanent teeth to appear are the first permanent molars (often called 6-year-old molars). These erupt behind the second primary molars and, because they appear so early in life, are often mistaken for primary teeth.

They are extremely important teeth and are crucial in the establishment of a correct bite (Bite is the way the teeth work together to chew).

Over the next six to eight years the primary teeth are shed and replaced by their permanent counterparts. The last of the permanent teeth, the third molars, usually erupt between 17 - 25 years of age.

THUMBSUCKING

Damage to permanent tooth alignment can occur if the thumb and finger sucking continue for a long time. Developmental abnormalities can occur in the upper jaw's shape.

VISITS TO THE DENTIST

Introducing dental visits to your child
Some say bring the child 12-18 months of age for a visual check up if you have any special concerns.

Normally my advice is to bring them with you, the parent, on your check up appointments at least once before they have their own.

1st Visit - Ride in dental chair

2nd visit - Examination with mirror

3rd visit - Use of probe to check for cavities

4th visit - Clean = prophylaxis with a soft rubber polishing cup and flossing.

Children's teeth should be properly checked before they go to primary school at least once and thereafter every six months. I believe in fluoride treatments at each of these six monthly visits. This is especially important if filtered water is used at home which removes fluoride from drinking water.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BABY TEETH

It is important to maintain the baby teeth so as to ensure that the permanent teeth have adequate space to emerge, and for the chewing comfort and nutrition of the child.

IF A TOOTH GETS KNOCKED OUT OR BREAKS OFF

In this situation try to reinsert tooth if cleanly knocked out. If the tooth is dirty, gently wash off dirt and debris but do not scrape off with sharp instruments as there may be some periodontal ligament still attached which is important for reinsertion. Place tooth in milk or glad wrap to avoid dehydration and go straight to the dentist as soon as possible.

If there is a hard blow to a tooth, it may be necessary to monitor the tooth and the surrounding dentition for some time with x-rays.

It is important to see the dentist to know how to assess if an abscess arises out of a traumatic injury to a tooth. A root canal may be necessary as the result of an injury or insult such as a blow to or a crack in the tooth crown or root.


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