Your baby’s first teeth are just as important as their permanent teeth. These tiny teeth help your baby chew and speak and they hold space in the gums for the permanent teeth.
These ‘baby teeth’, or ‘primary teeth’ start forming inside the gums before birth, and usually erupt at around 6 months old, but they can erupt a lot earlier or later than this too. Usually by about 2-3 years of age, a toddler will have all 20 primary teeth.
Your baby’s first dental visit should be at about 12 months, so we can have a look at the tooth eruption progress, and check on oral hygiene, and diet, and answer any questions you might have. Even if we don’t get a look inside, this first visit is a very important one.
‘Teething’ refers to the eruption of baby teeth, which is usually accompanied by some degree of discomfort and irritability. Some signs and symptoms include:
To help relieve teething discomfort, some recommendations include:
Thumb sucking is a natural reflex in babies and toddlers, and most lose interest in it by the time they are 2 to 4 years old.
However, children who continue to suck their thumb or fingers after their permanent teeth have erupted can develop quite crooked teeth and even jaw development changes which can cause speech defects also.
Some suggestions to help stop thumb sucking include:
If dummies are allowed to be used into the permanent teeth stage, then they will have the same outcome as prolonged sucking of thumbs and fingers.
However, the best thing about a dummy is that it can be removed forever before 12 months ideally, and the todd
ler easily forgets about it in a few days. Even at 2 to 4 years old, a dummy can be ‘given to Santa’ or ‘given to the Easter Bunny’ or even ‘given to the rubbish truck!’ Then they are gone forever, and the toddler can then move on.
Decay is just as much a risk in babies and toddlers as in children and adults, so caring for your baby’s teeth needs to begin at birth. To make sure your child has healthy teeth for life, make sure you establish good oral hygiene habits early.
Baby’s very first teeth can be wiped with a cloth, or brushed with a special toothbrush for babies which has a very small head and rounded bristles to gently massage their teeth and gums. This should be done once a day until 18 months old, with no toothpaste, just fluoridated tap water. The bath is often a fun place for this.
Once your toddler is about 2 years old, twice a day brushing should be introduced, as well as special age appropriate low-fluoride toothpaste. Just a smear is all you need.
Only use toothpaste once your little one can spit out. Also make sure all toothpaste is stored out of reach of small children, as some love the taste, and will eat it. This will cause fluorosis in the secondary teeth which can be quite disfiguring.
Teaching toddlers to brush can be very challenging! Many are fiercely independent. But at about 4 to 5 years old, a team approach is often needed, combining the efforts of both you and your little one. Maybe your child ‘starts’ and you ’finish’, or maybe they brush in the morning and you brush each night. Children do not have the dexterity or skills to properly clean their own teeth until about 8 years of age.
Position yourself behind your child, facing the bathroom sink/mirror with their head tilted back onto your body so you can see into their mouth.
Disclosing tablets or liquid are a fun way to help you see how you are going with your brushing technique. When you chew them, they stain plaque that is left on your teeth bright pink!
We use them to show our patients where plaque lurks. We also send them home with our patients so they can test themselves, and sometimes have competitions with their brothers and sisters and parents to see who cleans their teeth the best!
Your dentist or chemist will always have them.
As soon as your little one has 2 teeth together, they need to floss. However it is usually more practical to begin at about two and a half. Flossing is necessary because bacteria that cause tooth decay hide between teeth and cannot be brushed away, so must be removed by floss to avoid decay, and keep gums healthy.
Resistance to teeth cleaning? Struggling to sit still for 2 minutes or at all? Flossing….are you kidding!!