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FAQs - Dental care for children

This is a common question asked by many first time parents. It is recommended by the American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry, that your child's first dental visit should take place around 12 months of age or shortly after the eruption of the first baby tooth. Do not wait until your child has a toothache or a dental emergency to take him/her to the dentist for the first time. The experience may be very traumatic and one the child will probably remember for many years to come. As a result, the child may develop a fear of the dentist and that fear is sometimes very hard to overcome.

Oral health is important for a child's growth and development, overall health and well being, and self-esteem. Tooth decay can lead to pain, infection, malnutrition, poor weight gain, and premature loss of teeth -- which can affect the development of permanent teeth. Oral health problems in an infant's mouth, such as bleeding gums and cavities, increase the chance for these problems in permanent teeth. Good oral health habits -- started at an early age at home -- increase the chance for a healthy mouth during your child's young life and carry on through adulthood.

Yes, it's a good idea to get in the habit of cleaning your baby's gums.
To clean your baby’s mouth:

  • Lay your baby in your lap with his or her head close to your chest.
  • Gently, but firmly, rub a clean and damp piece of gauze or washcloth along both the upper and lower gums.
  • Clean the gums at least two times a day -- after breakfast and after the last feeding of the day. Even better -- clean your baby's gums after every feeding.

 

Baby teeth are important because they allow an infant to eat a good diet, allow for proper jaw growth, give the face its form and appearance, assist in the formation of proper speech, and most important, act as "space savers" for adult teeth.

Symptoms include:

  • Increased irritability
  • Placing objects or fingers in the mouth and biting down on them
  • Increased saliva or drooling
  • Loss of appetite or becoming choosy about foods
  • Tender and swollen gums
  • Rash on cheeks or redness in the area of the cheeks near the affected gums
  • Restlessness
  • Ear pulling, which may be a sign of teething or possibly an ear infection (make an appointment to have your child seen by your doctor or paediatrician)

Teething does not result in fever, vomiting, or diarrhoea. If your child experiences these problems, contact your physician.

Some suggestions include:

  • Massaging your child's gums with a clean finger or the back of a small cold spoon
  • Allowing your child to bite down on a chilled (but never frozen) teething ring. A frozen teething ring can damage the gums.
  • Using an over-the-counter teething ointment to numb the gums. Ask your dentist or doctor for some product recommendations.
  • Allowing your child to suck on a cold, wet cloth

Teething biscuits or cookies and frozen bananas are not recommended. These objects promote tooth decay and may cause your child to choke.

The following chart shows when primary teeth (also called baby teeth or deciduous teeth) erupt and shed. It’s important to note that eruption times can vary from child to child.

Upper Teeth

When tooth emerges

When tooth falls out

Central incisor

8 to 12 months

6 to 7 years

Lateral incisor

9 to 13 months

7 to 8 years

Canine (cuspid)

16 to 22 months

10 to 12 years

First molar

13 to 19 months

9 to 11 years

Second molar

25 to 33 months

10 to 12 years

Lower Teeth

When tooth emerges

When tooth falls out

Second molar

23 to 31 months

10 to 12 years

First molar

14 to 18 months

9 to 11 years

Canine (cuspid)

17 to 23 months

9 to 12 years

Lateral incisor

10 to 16 months

7 to 8 years

Central incisor

6 to 10 months

6 to 7 years

As seen from the chart, the first teeth begin to break through the gums at about 6 months of age. Usually, the first two teeth to erupt are the two bottom central incisors (the two bottom front teeth). Next, the top four front teeth emerge. After that, other teeth slowly begin to fill in, usually in pairs -- one each side of the upper or lower jaw -- until all 20 teeth (10 in the upper jaw and 10 in the lower jaw) have come in by the time the child is 2 ½ to 3 years old. The complete set of primary teeth is in the mouth from the age of 2 ½ to 3 years of age to 6 to 7 years of age.

 

  • 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 colour 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


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.

While it’s true that primary teeth are only in the mouth a short period of time, they play a vital role in the following ways:

  • They reserve space for their permanent counterparts
  • They give the face its normal appearance
  • They aid in the development of clear speech
  • They help attain good nutrition (missing or decayed teeth make it difficult to chew causing children to reject foods)
  • They help give a healthy start to the permanent teeth (decay and infection in baby teeth can cause dark spots on the permanent teeth developing beneath it)