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.
To reduce your child's risk of tooth decay and dental erosion:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Contact your dentist.
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.