Baby Teeth FAQ

AT WHAT AGE SHOULD I BRING MY CHILD TO THE DENTIST?

Children should have their first dental visit within six months of the eruption of the first baby tooth and no later than their first birthday. This is so an assessment and record can be made of your child's dental development and risk of cavities. It also gives us an opportunity to discuss good oral and dental hygiene practices at home, talk about diet, injury prevention and the possible need for fluoride supplements. If we find cavities or other problems they can be treated early before they become a bigger problem.

MY TWO-YEAR-OLD CHILD HAS A CAVITY IN A TOOTH. SHOULD THE TOOTH BE FILLED?

Yes, it should be treated as soon as possible to avoid pain and infection.

WHEN WILL MY BABY START GETTING TEETH?

Usually the two lower front teeth (central incisors) erupt at about six months, followed shortly by the two upper central incisors. During the next 18 to 24 months, the rest of the baby teeth appear (although not in orderly sequence from front to back).

All the 20 primary teeth should be present at two to three years of age.

IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO COMFORT MY BABY WHILE HE IS TEETHING?

Yes. Some children get some comfort by chewing on a teething biscuit, a piece of toast or a frozen teething ring.

If these don’t work there are teething medications that can be rubbed on the gums to reduce the discomfort. These are available at your pharmacy.

WHY DO THE PERMANENT TEETH LOOK MORE YELLOW THAN THE BABY TEETH?

Permanent teeth are normally more yellow than primary teeth. The contrast is more obvious when you see them next to the lighter baby teeth still in the mouth.

MY CHILD HAS A DOUBLE ROW OF FRONT TEETH. WHY IS THIS AND WHAT SHOULD BE DONE ABOUT IT?

This is not uncommon. Sometimes the permanent teeth begin to come in before the baby teeth are lost. If these teeth don’t come out by themselves we may have to remove them.

Once the baby tooth is out, the tongue usually moves the permanent tooth forward into its proper position. If there is crowding in the upper jaw, the baby teeth should be removed immediately.

Sometimes it is necessary to move the permanent tooth forward with an orthodontic appliance.

IS IT ALL RIGHT FOR MY CHILD TO REMOVE HER OWN BABY TEETH WHEN THEY BECOME LOOSE?

Perfectly OK. As the tooth loosens it is natural for a child to assist the process, which may take several weeks.

WHAT ABOUT THE BIG SPACE BETWEEN MY EIGHT-YEAR-OLDS TWO UPPER FRONT TEETH?

Usually there is no need for concern. The space will usually close in the next few years as the other front teeth erupt. Regular visits to your dentist will pick it up early.

MY CHILD'S BABY TEETH HAD A LOT OF DECAY. DOES THIS MEAN THAT THE PERMANENT WILL BE JUST AS BAD?

This is very likely, unless the cause can be determined and proper preventive and corrective steps are taken.

WHAT CAUSES NURSING CARIES AND BABY BOTTLE TOOTH DECAY?

Never give your child a bottle of milk as a pacifier at nap time or bedtime. When a child goes to sleep while breast-feeding and bottle-feeding the milk collects on the roof of the mouth and tongue and the upper front teeth are bathed in it while the child sleeps.

The flow of saliva is reduced and the natural self-cleansing action of the mouth is diminished. The sugar content of the stagnant collected milk is changed to acids which cause decalcification (softening) of the enamel and causes the extensive decay called "nursing caries".

WHY SHOULD THE BABY TEETH BE FILLED, SINCE THEY WILL BE LOST ANYWAY?

Primary teeth are commonly called baby teeth, but some of them must serve until the child is at least twelve years old and sometimes much longer. Decayed teeth can result in tooth pain, infection of the gums and jaws and impairment of general health.

Premature loss of teeth can also cause orthodontic problems.

Also, cavities tend to form in teeth that are next to other teeth with unfilled cavities. Decay is really an infection (and will spread if left untreated) so it is unwise to leave active decay in the mouth.

And finally, decay on baby teeth can cause decay on permanent teeth. Most children with untreated decay on baby teeth will develop decay on permanent teeth.

WHEN SHOULD I START CLEANING MY BABY'S TEETH?

You should start cleaning your baby's teeth as soon as the teeth erupt. Harmful plaque begins to form as soon as teeth erupt.

SHOULD I USE AN ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH ON MY CHILD'S TEETH?

Some children (and some adults too) do a more effective job of cleaning the teeth with the aid of an electric toothbrush. The novelty of the electric toothbrush may even motivate your child to brush more frequently.

We may even recommend an electric toothbrush in some cases.

WHAT TOOTHPASTE IS BEST FOR MY CHILD?

Fluoridated toothpaste should be used. But the thoroughness in removing plaque by brushing and flossing is equally as important as the toothpaste.

Children aged three years and younger should not use fluoridated toothpaste – use non-fluoridated infant toothpaste instead.

WHAT CAUSES DECAY?

Decay is caused by dental plaque. Plaque is a thin, sticky, colourless deposit of bacteria that constantly forms on everyone's teeth. When sugar is eaten, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack the tooth enamel. After repeated acid attacks, the enamel breaks down, and a cavity (hole) is formed.

WHY IS FLUORIDE SO IMPORTANT?

Fluoride dramatically decreases your chances of getting cavities by making teeth stronger and fluoride in the drinking water is the best and easiest way to get it.

Most major cities have fluoride in the drinking water system. In communities where the water district does not fluoridate the water, fluoride supplements should be given to your child until their twelve-year molars are fully erupted. Your paediatric dentist or paediatrician can help determine if your child needs fluoride supplements.

SHOULD I WORRY ABOUT THUMB OR FINGER SUCKING?

Thumb sucking is perfectly normal for infants and most children stop by age two. If your child does not stop thumb sucking try to discourage it by age four. Prolonged thumb sucking can create crowded, crooked teeth and bite problems.

We can suggest ways to address a prolonged thumb sucking habit.

WHAT IS A SEALANT?

A sealant is a clear or shaded plastic material that is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth (premolars and molars) where decay occurs most often. This sealant acts as a barrier, protecting the decay prone areas of the back teeth from plaque and acid.

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