Practicing good oral hygiene for kids is vital for tooth development. At Jenkins & LeBlanc, we will give your child a head start in dental care and a healthy smile to go with it. Learn more about teeth and the importance of dental care below.
Throughout your life, you will have two types of teeth: primary (baby) teeth and secondary (permanent) teeth. The primary teeth appear around ages 6-8 months, and all 20 are in place by age 3. A child’s teeth actually start forming before birth. As early as 4 months of age, the primary or “baby” teeth push through the gums—the lower central incisors are first, then the upper central incisors. The remainder of the 20 primary teeth typically erupt by age 3, but the place and order vary.
The first tooth erupts between ages 4 to 8 months, or by the child’s first birthday. Gums are sore, tender and sometimes irritable until the age of 3. Here are a few tips to help your child while they are teething:
- Rub sore gums gently with a clean finger, the back of a cold spoon or a cold, wet cloth helps soothe the gums
- Teething rings work well, but avoid teething biscuits—they contain sugar that is not good for baby teeth
- Monitor the teeth for signs of baby bottle decay, especially on the inside or the tongue side, every two weeks for dull spots (whiter than the tooth surface) or lines
Infant’s New Teeth
The primary, or “baby,” teeth play a crucial role in dental development. Without them, a child cannot chew food properly and has difficulty speaking clearly. Primary teeth are vital to the development of the jaws and for guiding the permanent (secondary) teeth into place when they replace the primary teeth around age 6.
Since primary teeth guide the permanent teeth into place, infants with missing primary teeth or infants who prematurely lose primary teeth may require a space maintainer, a device used to hold the natural space open. Without a maintainer, the teeth can tilt toward the empty space and cause permanent teeth to come in crooked. Missing teeth should always be mentioned to your family dentist. The way your child cares for his/her primary teeth plays a critical role in how he/she treats the permanent teeth. Children and adults are equally susceptible to plaque and gum problems—hence, the need for regular care and dental checkups.
A Child’s First Dental Visit
A child’s first dental visit should be scheduled around his/her first birthday. A pleasant, comfortable first visit builds trust and helps put the child at ease during future dental visits. If possible, allow the child to sit in a parent’s lap in the exam room. Children should be encouraged to discuss any fears or anxiety they feel.
Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Tooth decay in infants can be minimized and prevented by not allowing sleeping infants to breast or bottle-feed. Infants that need a bottle to comfortably fall asleep should be given a water-filled bottle or a pacifier.
A bottle containing anything other than water and left in an infant’s mouth while sleeping can cause decay. This happens because sugar in the liquid mixes with bacteria in dental plaque, forming acids that attack the tooth enamel. Each time a child drinks liquids containing sugar, acids attack the teeth for about 20 minutes. When awake, saliva carries away the liquid. During sleep, the saliva flow significantly decreases and liquids pool around the child’s teeth for long periods, covering the teeth in acids.
Permanent Tooth Eruption
Permanent teeth will begin to grow around age 6, and with the exception of wisdom teeth, are all present between ages 12 and 14. The next teeth to grow in are the 12-year molars and finally the wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth typically begin breaking through from age 17 and on. The total number of permanent teeth is 32, though few people have room for all 32 teeth, which is why wisdom teeth are usually removed.
Including wisdom teeth, you actually have five different types of permanent teeth. Your front teeth are called incisors. The sharp “fang-like” teeth are canines. The next side teeth are referred to as pre-molars or bicuspids, and the back teeth are molars. Your permanent teeth are the ones you keep for life, so it is important that they are brushed and flossed regularly and that periodic check-ups by a dentist are followed.
Good Diet & Healthy Teeth
The teeth, bones and soft tissue of the mouth require a healthy, well-balanced diet. A variety of foods from the five food groups helps minimize (and avoid) cavities and other dental problems. Encourage your children to eat healthy snacks like crunchy fruits and vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and cheese which promote strong teeth.
Learn More about The Importance of Oral Hygiene
For more information about teeth and how you can help your child grow a healthy smile, visit our blog on Oral Hygiene for Kids.