Your child is considered in primary dentition from infancy until the time their 1st permanent molars begin to erupt, around the age of 6. Baby teeth function as space maintainers for permanent teeth, meaning they preserve the path which permanent teeth follow to enter the mouth. This also means that dental care of baby teeth is extremely important, as it will have long term effects on your child’s teeth and smile.
Let’s start off with a few facts about baby (or primary) teeth!
- Development of your baby’s teeth begins in utero.
- Yes, you read that right, the tooth development process, known as calcification starts around 14 weeks in to pregnancy.
- The order of the eruption timeline shown below is normally consistent, but you may see small variations in your child’s age for each tooth’s eruption.
- Classic signs and symptoms of teething include… drooling, chewing on solid objects, irritability/crankiness, and sore/tender gums.
- It is a common misconception that teething can cause fever, diarrhea, and other systemic conditions, but there is little scientific evidence to support these associations; if your child has a fever, you should consult your medical doctor as there is likely a separate cause.
- Tips to help your child through the teething process:
- Pressure can ease the discomfort, so use a clean finger or moistened gauze pad to rub your child’s gums.
- A cold washcloth, spoon or chilled teething ring can also be soothing to your child’s gums.
- If you feel your child is in a lot of discomfort and neither of the above solutions have helped, you can try an over-the-counter medication. Ask your pharmacist about children’s ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or a topical anesthetic which can be applied to the area directly.
- Sometimes during the eruption of teeth, you may notice a dome-shaped bubble where the tooth should be, usually a bluish colour similar to that of a bruise. This is known as an “eruption cyst”.
- Do not worry, no treatment is needed. The underlying tooth will erupt through the area, and the eruption cyst will disappear spontaneously.
- Once all of your child’s baby teeth have come in, the eruption sequence is complete. At this point, it is normal to see some gaps or spacing between the teeth. These spaces allow room for the permanent teeth as they are larger than baby teeth. The gaps are usually filled after the eruption of permanent teeth.
So everyone knows that “sugar” is bad for your teeth…but how does a cavity actually happen?
- Cavities, aka dental caries, are the result of acid production in the mouth. Acid is formed when the sugars existing in food and drinks react with the bacteria present in dental plaque. The acid then starts to demineralize the outermost layer of a tooth (the enamel), and the cavity process has begun!
- In simpler terms, eating sugar (which is inevitable as it is in most foods) and not brushing and flossing your teeth properly (brushing and flossing tips are up next!) will likely lead to cavities.
- Because baby teeth are smaller than permanent teeth, the different layers of a baby tooth are not as thick. This means that once a cavity starts… it can spread to the nerve much faster than it would in a permanent tooth.
- Regular dental visits are so important, especially with children, so that cavities can be detected early on.
Brushing and Flossing Recommendations:
Infants (0-1 year)
- Clean teeth/gums with moistened gauze square or washcloth once daily.
Toddlers (1-3 years)
- Introduce toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Brush with “smear” amount of fluoride toothpaste twice daily.
- Parents do the actual brushing during this stage.
- At this time, begin to keep an eye out for closing of the gaps between teeth. If teeth are touching at any point, you should introduce flossing.
Preschool Aged (3-6 years)
- Brush with “pea sized” amount of fluoride toothpaste twice daily.
- Children at this age have improved their manual dexterity and visual coordination considerably but parents should still assist with brushing and flossing during this stage.
Brushing and Flossing Techniques:
- Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your child’s teeth, pointing the bristles to where the gums and teeth meet.
- Use gentle circles to clean every surface of every tooth; avoid a scrubbing motion.
- When the bristles of your child’s toothbrush get bent or worn down, it is time for a new one. Toothbrushes typically last 3-4 months.
- Be sure that the toothbrush is the proper size for your child’s mouth and the bristles are soft.
- Take a piece of floss and slide it between your child’s teeth, wrapping the floss around the base of the tooth where the tooth and the gums meet.
- Move the floss up and down the surface of the tooth a few times.
- Make sure you floss each tooth in the mouth, even behind the very last tooth.
Okay, all this leads us to the big question…“When should my child first see the dentist?”
Both the Canadian and American Dental Associations recommend that a child find a “dental home” within six months of the eruption of their first primary tooth, or no later than 12 months of age.
- What should I expect at my child’s first dental visit?
- Your child’s teeth will be examined to make sure they are developing properly.
- You will be provided with information regarding preventive home care strategies to keep your child’s teeth as healthy as possible.
- In most cases, a dental exam every six months will allow a dentist to treat small issues early on.
Some final things to keep in mind:
- Thumb sucking and other non-nutritive sucking habits, such as finger sucking or the use of a pacifier should be discontinued by the age of 3.
- Prolonged habits can have negative effects on the positioning of teeth.
- You should try to limit the consumption of sugars to mealtimes as much as possible.
- Overnight bottle-feeding with juice or milk, the use of juice or milk in a sippy-cup throughout the day, and frequent in between meal consumption of snacks/drinks containing sugar increases the risk of cavities.
- All of these things allow teeth to be continuously coated with sugars over prolonged periods of time.
- If sippy cups are used at naptime or bedtime, it is recommended that they only contain water.
- Cheese is one of the healthiest snacks for your child’s teeth.
- In addition to providing large amounts calcium, cheese also does its part to fight cavities by producing saliva.
- Saliva provides a protective film to teeth and helps to wash away acids.
- Children enjoy modeling parents’ behavior, so try to make home dental care something fun you can do together!
Thanks for reading! Tell the Tooth Fairy I say hi!
Dr. Spencer Burns
Contact us today to schedule an appointment or stop by for a free baby teeth starter kit!
Capital Dental Clinic
123 York Street, Suite 201
Fredericton, NB E3B 3N6
About the Author/Dentist
Dr. Spencer Burns is originally from Miramichi NB. Spencer graduated from Mount Allison University with a Bachelor of Science (B. Sc) before earning his Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) from Boston University, where he was awarded “Summa Cum Laude” honors, and selected to the Omicron Kappa Upsilon National Dental Honor Society.
Spencer is passionate about the dental profession and stays current with the latest developments in the dental field by frequently attending dental seminars and continuing education courses.
Spencer is very excited to be back in his home province, closer to his friends/family, and to join Capital Dental Clinic in downtown Fredericton, as well as the Fredericton community.