Dental Hygiene for Children

teeth

First or ‘baby’ teeth have usually developed before your child is born and will start to come through at around 6 months. All 20 baby teeth should be through by the age of two-and-a-half.

The first permanent ‘adult’ molars (back teeth) will appear at about 6 years, behind the baby teeth and before the first teeth start to fall out at about 6 to 7. The adult teeth will then replace the baby teeth. It is usually the lower front teeth that are lost first, followed by the upper front teeth shortly after. All adult teeth should be in place by the age of 13, except the wisdom teeth. These may come through at any time between 18 and 25 years of age.

Shortly after age 4, the jaw and facial bones of the child begin to grow, creating spaces between the primary teeth. This is a perfectly natural growth process that provides the necessary space for the larger permanent teeth to emerge. Between the ages of 6 and 12, a mixture of both primary teeth and permanent teeth reside in the mouth.

Other primary tooth eruption facts:

A general rule of thumb is that for every 6 months of life, approximately 4 teeth will erupt.
Girls generally precede boys in tooth eruption.

  • Lower teeth usually erupt before upper teeth.
  • Teeth in both jaws usually erupt in pairs — one on the right and one on the left.
  • Primary teeth are smaller in size and whiter in color than the permanent teeth that will follow.
  • By the time a child is 2 to 3 years of age, all primary teeth should have erupted.

All children are different and develop at different rates.

After weeks of watching your baby drool and fuss, you finally spot that first little tooth bud popping up through the gums. Over the next couple of years, your baby’s gummy smile will gradually be replaced by two rows of baby teeth.

Baby teeth may be small, but they’re important. They act as placeholders for adult teeth. Without a healthy set of baby teeth, your child will have trouble chewing and speaking clearly. That’s why caring for baby teeth and keeping them decay-free is so important.

Caring for Baby’s Gums

You can start caring for your baby’s gums right away. But at first, the care won’t involve a toothbrush and toothpaste. Instead, take these steps:

  • Get a soft, moistened washcloth or piece of gauze.
  • Gently wipe down your baby’s gums at least twice a day.
  • Especially wipe your baby’s gums after feedings and before bedtime.

This will wash off bacteria and prevent them from clinging to your baby’s gums. Bacteria can leave behind a sticky plaque that damages infant teeth as they erupt.

Brushing Baby’s Teeth

When the first baby teeth start to pop up, you can graduate to a toothbrush. Choose one with a:

  • soft brush
  • small head
  • large handle

At first, just wet the toothbrush. At around age 1, you can start using a pea-sized amount of a non-fluoridated toothpaste. Wait to introduce fluoride toothpaste until your child is at least 2 years old. Brush gently all around your child’s baby teeth — front and back.

You should brush your baby’s teeth until he or she is old enough to hold the brush. Continue to supervise the process until your child can rinse and spit without assistance. That usually happens at around age 6.

Keep on the lookout for any signs of baby tooth decay — brown or white spots or pits on the teeth. If you or your pediatrician notices any problems, take your child to a pediatric dentist for an exam.

Even if there isn’t a problem, your child should go for his or her first pediatric dentist visit by age 1. The dentist can give you advice about:

  • baby tooth care
  • teething
  • fluoride
  • thumb sucking

You should then take them regularly, as often as your dentist recommends. This will let them get used to the noises, smells and surroundings and prepare them for future visits. The earlier these visits begin, the more relaxed the child will be.

Cleaning your child’s teeth should be part of their daily hygiene routine.

  • You may find it easier to stand or sit behind your child, cradling their chin in your hand so you can reach their top and bottom teeth more easily.
  • When the first teeth start to come through, try using a children’s toothbrush with a small smear of toothpaste.
  • It is important to supervise your child’s brushing until they are at least seven.
  • Once all the teeth have come through, use a small-headed soft toothbrush in small circular movements and try to concentrate on one section at a time.
  • Don’t forget to brush gently behind the teeth and onto the gums.
  • If possible make tooth brushing a routine – preferably in the morning, and last thing before your child goes to bed.
  • Remember to encourage your child, as praise will often get results!

What Toothbrush or Toothpaste you should use for your children.

Fluoride comes from a number of different sources including toothpaste, specific fluoride applications and perhaps the drinking water in your area. These can all help to prevent tooth decay. If you are unsure about using fluoride toothpaste ask your dentist, health visitor or health authority. All children up to three years old should use a toothpaste with a fluoride level of at least 1000ppm (parts per million). After three years old, they should use a toothpaste that contains 1350ppm to 1500ppm.
You can check the level of fluoride on the packaging of the toothpaste. You should supervise your children’s brushing up to the age of 7, and make sure they spit out the toothpaste and don’t swallow any if possible.

There are many different types of children’s toothbrushes. These include brightly coloured brushes, ones that change colour, ones with favourite characters on the handle, and some with a timer. These all encourage children to brush their teeth. The most important point is to use a small-headed toothbrush with soft, nylon bristles, suitable for the age of your child.

What Causes Toothache in Children?

Toothache is painful and upsetting, especially in children, and the main cause is still tooth decay.This is due to too much sugar and acid, too often, in the diet.

 Teething is another problem which starts at around 6 months and can continue as all the baby teeth start to come through. Nowadays teethers are available and can be given to the baby to chew onto but utmost care should be taken to keep them clean and sterile. Children may get very irritable and restless, also may suffer with a low grade fever. Not to worry these are normal happenings and will occur, just massage your baby’s gums, and if need be you may consult a doctor for the fever .

The main cause of tooth decay is not the amount of sugar and acid in the diet, but how often it is eaten or drunk. The more often your child has sugary or acidic foods or drinks, the more likely they are to have decay. It is therefore important to keep sugary and acidic foods to mealtimes only. If you want to give your child a snack, try to stick to vegetables, fruit and cheese. Try to limit dried fruit as it is high in sugar and can stick to the teeth.

It is also worth remembering that some processed baby foods contain quite a lot of sugar. Try checking the list of ingredients: the higher up the list sugar is, the more there is in the product. Sometimes, on labels, sugar is called fructose, glucose, lactose or sucrose.

Thorough brushing for two minutes, twice a day, particularly last thing at night, will help to prevent tooth decay.

Visiting a Dentist

Children can sense fear in their parents, so it is important not to let your child feel that a visit to the dentist is something to be worried about. Try to be supportive if your child needs to have any dental treatment. If you have any fears of your own about going to the dentist, don’t discuss them in front of your child.

Regular visits to the dentist are essential in helping your child to get used to the surroundings and what goes on there. A child can be much more anxious if it is their first visit to a dental practice. Pain and distress can happen at any time and it is important to prepare your child with regular visits.


If you have any questions on the subject, please be free to list them in the comment box below. We’ll be happy to get you the answers to your queries.

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