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Services & Treatments

Care Of Children's Teeth

Caring for children's teeth from an early age will help them to grow up with healthy teeth and gums

Diet, oral hygiene and visits to the dentist are all important in helping to care for a child's teeth. Children's teeth start to develop before birth. There are two sets of teeth: milk teeth (sometimes called baby teeth) and permanent teeth.

How can I protect my child's teeth?

To reduce your child's risk of tooth decay and dental erosion:

  • take your child to the dentist regularly
  • don't give him or her too many sugary or acidic foods and drinks
  • encourage your child to brush his or her teeth twice a day with at least 1,000ppm fluoride toothpaste
  • encourage your child to spit out toothpaste and not rinse with water, as this reduces the effect of the fluoride
  • take advice from your dentist about protective treatments such as fluoride supplements and fissure sealants


  1. Reducing sugar in your child's diet is the best way to prevent tooth decay. However, it's how often your child eats sugar (rather than how much) that is important. Similarly, it's how often your child has acidic food and drinks (rather than the amount) that affects dental erosion.
  2. Keep squashes, fizzy drinks, natural fruit juices, sweets and cakes to a minimum. Don't give your child sugary foods and drinks as snacks between meals or before bedtime. Watch out for hidden sugars in sauces, breakfast cereals, etc.
  3. Fruit, vegetables, cheese and milk are all healthier snacks because they contain natural sugars. Remember, however, that as well as natural sugars, fruit contains acids, which can cause decay if eaten in large amounts. You can help to protect your child's teeth against erosion by finishing a meal with an alkaline food such as milk or cheese. This will neutralize the acid in your child's mouth.
  4. Plain water and plain milk don't cause tooth decay or erosion. Your child may find it hard to drink plain water or milk if he or she usually has sweet drinks, but most children get used to it over time.

More Info

What's The Best Toothpaste For My Child?
Start brushing your baby's teeth with fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first milk tooth breaks through.

Start brushing your baby's teeth with fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first milk tooth breaks through (usually at around six months, but it can be earlier or later). It's important to use a fluoride paste, as this helps to prevent and control tooth decay. 

There's no need to buy special "children's toothpaste" brands. In fact, some of them don’t have enough fluoride in them to help prevent tooth decay. 

Children from the age of seven can use family toothpaste, as long as it contains 1,350-1,500 parts per million (ppm) fluoride. Check the toothpaste packet if you're not sure, or ask your dentist.

Children up to the age of six who don't have tooth decay can use a lower-strength toothpaste, but make sure it contains at least 1,000ppm fluoride. 

  • ‍Make sure children don't eat or lick toothpaste from the tube.  
  • Below the age of three years, children should use just a smear of toothpaste.
  • Children aged three to six should use a pea-sized blob of toothpaste.
Toothbrushing Tips For Your Child

Brush your child's teeth for about two minutes twice a day: once just before bedtime and at least one other time during the day.

Encourage them to spit out excess toothpaste, but not to rinse with lots of water. Rinsing with water after tooth brushing will wash away the fluoride and make it less effective.

Supervise tooth brushing until your child is seven or eight years old, either by brushing their teeth yourself or, if they brush their own teeth, by watching how they do it. From the age of seven or eight, they should be able to brush their own teeth, but it's still a good idea to watch them now and again to make sure they brush properly and for about two minutes.

When to start taking your child to the dentist?

Take your child to the dentist when their first milk teeth appear. This is so they become familiar with the environment and get to know the dentist. The dentist can help prevent decay and identify any oral health problems at an early stage. Just opening up the child's mouth for the dentist to take a look at is useful practise for the future. 

When you visit the dentist, be positive about it and make the trip fun. This will stop your child worrying about future visits.

Take your child for regular dental check-ups as advised by the dentist. 

How Do I Prevent Cavities / Tooth Decay?

Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones and the soft tissues of the mouth need a well-balanced diet. Children should eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups. Most snacks that children eat can lead to cavity formation. The more frequently a child snacks, the greater the chance for tooth decay. How long food remains in the mouth also plays a role. For example, hard candy and breath mints stay in the mouth a long time, which cause longer acid attacks on tooth enamel. Please see our diet advice sheet.

Beware of Sports Drinks
Beware of sports drinks

Due to the high sugar content and acids in sports drinks, they have erosive potential and the ability to dissolve even fluoride-rich enamel, which can lead to cavities.

To minimize dental problems, children should avoid sports drinks and hydrate with water before, during and after sports.  Be sure to talk to your pediatric dentist before using sports drinks.

If sports drinks are consumed:
  1. Reduce the frequency and contact time
  2. Swallow immediately and do not swish them around the mouth
  3. Neutralize the effect of sports drinks by alternating sips of water with the drink
  4. Rinse mouthguards only in water
  5. Seek out dentally friendly sports drinks

Seal Out Decay

A sealant is a clear or shaded plastic material that is applied to the chewing surfaces (grooves) of the back teeth (premolars and molars), where four out of five cavities in children are found. This sealant acts as a barrier to food, plaque and acid, thus protecting the decay-prone areas of the teeth.

‍Before sealant is applied
‍ ‍Before sealant is applied
Mouth Guards for Children

When a child begins to participate in recreational activities and organized sports, injuries can occur. A properly fitted mouth guard, or mouth protector, is an important piece of athletic gear that can help protect your child’s smile, and should be used during any activity that could result in a blow to the face or mouth.

Mouth guards help prevent broken teeth, and injuries to the lips, tongue, face or jaw. A properly fitted mouth guard will stay in place while your child is wearing it, making it easy for them to talk and breathe.

See our page on custom mouth guards.

Why Are The Primary Teeth Important?

It is very important to maintain the health of the  primary teeth. Neglected cavities can and frequently do lead to problems  which affect developing permanent teeth. Primary teeth, or baby teeth are important for:

  1. Proper chewing and eating
  2. Providing  space for the permanent teeth and guiding them into the correct position
  3. Permitting normal development of the jaw bones and  muscles. Primary teeth also affect the development of speech and add to an  attractive appearance.

While the front 4 teeth last until 6-7 years of age, the  back teeth (cuspids and molars) aren’t replaced until age 10-13.

Does Your Child Grind His Teeth At Night? (Bruxism)

Parents are often concerned about the  nocturnal grinding of teeth (bruxism). Often, the first indication is the  noise created by the child grinding on their teeth during sleep. Or, the  parent may notice wear (teeth getting shorter) to the dentition. One theory  as to the cause involves a psychological component. Stress due to a new  environment, divorce, changes at school; etc. can influence a child to grind  their teeth. Another theory relates to pressure in the inner ear at night. If  there are pressure changes (like in an airplane during take-off and landing,  when people are chewing gum, etc. to equalize pressure) the child will grind  by moving his jaw to relieve this pressure.

The majority of cases of pediatric bruxism do  not require any treatment. If excessive wear of the teeth (attrition) is  present, then a mouth guard (night guard) may be indicated. The negatives to  a mouth guard are the possibility of choking if the appliance becomes  dislodged during sleep and it may interfere with growth of the jaws. The  positive is obvious by preventing wear to the primary dentition.

The good news is most children outgrow bruxism. The grinding decreases between the ages 6-9 and children tend to stop grinding between ages 9-12. If you suspect bruxism, discuss this with your pediatrician or pediatric dentist.

See our page on bruxism for more information.

Thumb Sucking

Sucking is a natural reflex and infants and young children may use thumbs, fingers, pacifiers and other objects on which to suck. It may make them feel secure and happy, or provide a sense of security at difficult periods. Since thumb sucking is relaxing, it may induce  sleep.

Thumb sucking that persists beyond the  eruption of the permanent teeth can cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and tooth alignment. How intensely a child sucks on fingers or  thumbs will determine whether or not dental problems may result. Children who rest their thumbs passively in their mouths are less likely to have  difficulty than those who vigorously suck their thumbs.

Children should cease thumb sucking by the time their permanent front teeth are ready to erupt. Usually, children stop between the ages of two and four. Peer pressure causes many school-aged children to stop.

Pacifiers are no substitute for thumb sucking. They can affect the teeth essentially the same way as sucking fingers and thumbs. However, use of the pacifier can be controlled and modified more easily than the thumb or finger habit. If you have concerns about thumb  sucking or use of a pacifier, consult your pediatric dentist.

A few suggestions to help your child get  through thumb sucking:

  1. Children often suck their thumbs  when feeling insecure. Focus on correcting the cause of anxiety, instead of  the thumb sucking.
  2. Children who are sucking for  comfort will feel less of a need when their parents provide comfort.
  3. Reward children when they refrain  from sucking during difficult periods, such as when being separated from  their parents.
  4. Your pediatric dentist can  encourage children to stop sucking and explain what could happen if they continue.

If these approaches don’t work, remind the  children of their habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night. Your pediatric dentist may recommend the use of a mouth appliance.

Eruption Of Your Child's Teeth

Children’s teeth begin forming before birth. As early as  4 months, the first primary (or baby) teeth to erupt through the gums are the  lower central incisors, followed closely by the upper central incisors.  Although all 20 primary teeth usually appear by age 3, the pace and order of  their eruption varies.

Permanent teeth begin appearing around age 6, starting  with the first molars and lower central incisors. At the age of 8, you can  generally expect the bottom 4 primary teeth (lower central and lateral incisors)  and the top 4 primary teeth (upper central and lateral incisors) to be gone  and permanent teeth to have taken their place. There is about a one to two  year break from ages 8-10 and then the rest of the permanent teeth will start  to come in. This process continues until approximately age 21.

Adults have 28 permanent teeth, or  up to 32 including the third molars (or wisdom teeth).

Children's Dental Chart of Eruptions & Shedding
Dental Emergencies

Clean the area of the affected tooth. Rinse the mouth thoroughly with warm  water or use dental floss to dislodge any food that may be impacted. If the  pain still exists, contact your child's dentist. Do not place aspirin or heat  on the gum or on the aching tooth. If the face is swollen, apply cold  compresses and contact your dentist immediately.

Cut Or Bitten Tongue, Lip Or Cheek

Apply ice to injured areas  to help control swelling. If there is bleeding, apply firm but gentle  pressure with a gauze or cloth. If bleeding cannot be controlled by simple  pressure, call a doctor or visit the hospital emergency room.

Knocked Out Permanent Tooth

If possible, find the tooth.  Handle the tooth by the crown only. DO NOT TOUCH THE ROOT. DO NOT clean with  soap, scrub, or handle the tooth unnecessarily. If necessary, give the tooth  a quick, gentle rinse with cold milk. Try to reinsert the tooth in the socket  as soon as possible. Have the patient hold the tooth in place by biting on  gauze or a clean cloth. If you cannot reinsert the tooth, transport the tooth  in a cup containing the patient’s saliva, cold milk, or “save-a-tooth” solution, NOT WATER. The patient must see a dentist IMMEDIATELY! Time is a  critical factor in saving a tooth.

Knocked Out Baby Tooth

Contact your  dentist.  Unlike with a permanent  tooth, the baby tooth should not be replanted due to possible damage to the developing permanent tooth.  In most cases, no treatment is necessary.

Chipped/Fractured Permanent Tooth

Time is a critical factor,  contact your dentist immediately so as to reduce the chance for infection or  the need for extensive dental treatment in the future. Rinse the mouth with water and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling.  If you can find the  broken tooth piece, bring it with you to the dentist.

Chipped/Fractured Baby Tooth

Contact your dentist.


Get in touch

If you have any queries please contact us  at the Mullane Dental Practice, Newcastle West, Co. Limerick. Alternatively, if you would like to book an appointment/consultation with one of our dentists, please use our booking form below.

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