By Dr Giulia D’Anna, founder of iDental
- Your child’s baby teeth will start to appear, often with the central bottom teeth first, anywhere between 4 months and 10 months. Like every milestone, the age that a child gets their first tooth can vary widely, and there is no need to panic if every other child already seems to have teeth and your child does not. Accept this as a positive delay, as this gives the child more time before they need to look after their teeth or for decay to develop. As the teeth start to get wobbly and are lost, often parents are concerned that the baby tooth is still present whilst the adult tooth has started to pop through the gum. This is quite common and the best course of action is to see your dentist for assessment. The most common advice I give out is that the baby tooth needs lots of wobbling to encourage its loss. And if the baby tooth persists on being present for longer than 3 months after the adult tooth first shows up, a dentist will need to help out.
- Children can get decay and this is most commonly associated with diet related issues. Eating lots of sugar without good brushing is a consideration. Additionally, drinking sugary drinks is also best avoided. The best drinks for kids are milk and water. Seems simple and it really is. Avoiding sticky sugar is also a really good tip. The lunch box snack of “roll-ups”, sultanas or lollies are best avoided. These kinds of sugars stick to the teeth for a prolonged period of time, so that the teeth develop decay much more easily. The use of tooth mousse can help to stabilise decay levels and strengthen enamel, and the great thing about this product is that it was developed at the University of Melbourne, right here in Australia.
- Only use toothpaste when your child can reliably spit out. Toothpaste contains fluoride and this is a great thing. However there are a number of concerns that can develop if your child is swallowing excess amounts of toothpaste. Fluoride in the water supply usually sits at a really low concentration of 1 part per million. Adult toothpaste sits at around 1000 parts per million, and child toothpaste has around 200-300 parts per million. Fluoride has been one of the single most beneficial health initiatives in the world, preventing tooth loss significantly since its introduction. However, when your child is growing, fluoride ingestion can cause discolouration of the permanent teeth. This is called Dental Fluorosis. Dental Fluorosis can affect the appearance of teeth, most commonly appearing as white lines/areas on tooth surfaces. It is caused by a high intake of fluoride from one or more sources during the time when teeth are developing. Almost all Dental Fluorosis in Australia, however, is mild or very mild, does not affect the function of the teeth, and is not of aesthetic concern to those who have it.
- Get your child’s teeth checked by the dentist early.
This is beneficial in a few ways. First of all, the child will see the dental experience as a positive one as little is usually done in the first few visits aside from a general check of the teeth, some teeth counting games and a fun ride in the chair. At iDental, we usually like to play games and give out prizes for having a dental check, which all reinforces this positive behaviour. The second benefit of an early check is to detect developmental problems like tongue or lip tie, which can impair speech, and to screen for decay or potential other dental concerns.
- When there is decay, get this fixed. Primary or baby teeth seem like a trial run, and they kind of are. But primary teeth are important for function and speech. Without front teeth, your child will struggle with a lisp which will have an impact on reading and spelling. Without back teeth, nutrition can be a problem. Additionally, with decay, infections can develop easily as the teeth are smaller and less resistant to decay progression. Finally one of the most important reasons to keep baby teeth in position is that they maintain the space we need for the new secondary or permanent teeth to come through in the correct position. When a tooth is lost too early, the spaces normally needed by the permanent teeth close, as the teeth either side of the space drift into this position. This can lead to unnecessary orthodontic problems later on, when the teeth are much more crowded than they might have been by fixing and saving the baby tooth in the first place.