Oral health is important for a child’s growth, development, general health and self-esteem.
At Curtin Dental Care, we want your children to have the best dental health possible. Visits to a dentist by children as young as 2 years of age, is important in order to detect any problems in growth and oral health as soon as possible. Early visits also gets them used to having their teeth checked, relieving any problems of visits as they get older.
Birth to 3 years
Tooth decay is the most chronic health concern for children. It can lead to pain, infection, malnutrition, and premature loss of baby teeth, which can effect the development of adult teeth. The presence of bleeding gums and cavities in baby teeth increases the chances of these problems occurring in their adult teeth. Good oral health habits are therefore essential, and, if started early, will increase the opportunity for a healthy mouth right through to adulthood.
Why are children’s baby teeth important?
Baby teeth are important for eating a good diet, jaw growth, appearance, speech and most importantly, to keep the spacing for their adult teeth. Baby teeth are replaced by adult teeth at certain times that are specific for your child. Baby teeth lost early because of tooth decay is, the leading cause for crowding of the adult teeth.
3 to 6 years
By three years, most children have twenty primary (baby) teeth. At this stage, you want to see spacing between the teeth. Spacing between the upper and lower front teeth will help the larger adult teeth have the space they need. If the baby front teeth are crowded, more jaw growth will be needed for the adult front teeth. Spaces in between the back teeth lessen the chance for tooth decay to develop.
Should I be concerned about my child’s bite?
The bite (occlusion) of your child’s baby teeth is very important. Occlusion refers to how the teeth contact and work together. Problems of the bite can affect a child’s speech, jaw position, appearance and the ability to chew properly.
Genetics determines the size and shape of the teeth and the growth and position of the jaw. Thus, if one or both parents have an overbite or underbite, your child may develop the same profile and occlusion starting with the baby teeth.
What you should see is the following:
Normal overjet: All of the front teeth should overlap a little outside the bottom teeth.
Normal overbite:The lower front teeth should come up and a little behind the upper front teeth. The space (or contact line) between the upper two middle teeth should be over that of the middle lower teeth.
How often should my child brush their teeth?
Brushing should be done first thing in the morning and at bedtime – after the final snack. Make sure your child uses only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. If your child doesn’t like the “tingly taste” of the toothpaste you’re using, keep searching until you find the taste they like. Make brushing a family affair. Young children have not yet developed good coordination so your help with brushing is important. Brush along the gum line and the chewing surfaces using a small circular motion. Most children tend to miss the cheek surfaces of the upper back teeth and the tongue surfaces of the lower back teeth. Teach your child to brush their tongue too.
Should I be flossing my child’s teeth?
Studies do not show that flossing is important in preventing tooth decay in young children. Brushing and proper diet are most important. We recommend flossing for a child who continues to get decay in between their teeth even after preventative measures have not worked. If there are spaces in between your child’s teeth, there is no need to floss.
As we age through adolescence and adulthood, flossing becomes increasingly important in preventing gingivitis, periodontal infections and breath problems.
What are sealants? Does my child need them?
Sealants are a very effective preventive therapy against tooth decay. On the chewing surface of the baby and adult molars are pits and fissures, which are normal imperfections of these teeth. Sealants fill in these areas to protect them from decay.
The depth and width of the pits and fissures varies from person to person. There can be pits and fissures on the cheek surfaces of the lower molars and on the tongue surface of the upper molars. Food and germs often become trapped in these areas. A cavity can easily happen because brushing and fluoride are not effective protection against cavities of the pits and fissures. Only sealants are effective protection against decay of these surfaces because they fill in these areas.
The sealant is a liquid that becomes hard like plastic after it is applied to the tooth. Sealant therapy, which was introduced over twenty years ago, is non-invasive (no drilling) and doesn’t require a local anaesthetic.
We may recommend sealant therapy after examining the baby molars, taking into consideration your child’s dental history and other factors.
6 to 12 year olds
My 6 year old’s baby teeth are still present. Should I be concerned?
Most children start to get their adult teeth at about six years of age. However, some children don’t get their first adult tooth until after they are seven. When your child gets their new teeth, it’s important that we determine with x-rays all the other adult teeth are growing in the jaw. We also look for bite problems and ensure all teeth are clean and healthy.
When do adult teeth appear?
By six years of age, most children will start losing their baby teeth and their adult teeth start appearing. Some children start losing their baby teeth early (i.e. 4 and a half) and some later (i.e. 7-8 years). Usually, we see the lower front incisor or the molar teeth first. However, the adult (i.e.. 6 year) molars may appear first.
Do you recommend sealants for adult molars?
Most children get this new decay on the pits and fissures of their new adult molars. However, some children do not need sealants because their pits and fissures are closed and do not catch the explorer (a dental probe used to detect signs of tooth decay).
What can I do about my 10 year old who is living on snack food?
Be aware that tooth decay is related to eating foods rich in sugar and cooked starches too often, especially foods that stay in the mouth longer because they are soft and sticky. Cavities can begin in between the teeth before you can see them. Rinsing with or drinking water after these snacks would be helpful. Therefore, your goal as a parent is to encourage moderation and to teach good food habits early on. Get them involved in planning and preparing meals. Encourage your child to drink water frequently.
Why are there white, brown or yellow spots on the new front teeth?
There are many reasons for tooth discoloration and even healthy children can experience this. Most stains are on the tooth surface and are caused by the build-up of plaque, usually from lack of good brushing. Try adult toothpaste or a mixture of baking soda and water. If this doesn’t work, your dentist should be able to remove the stain if it is on the tooth surface.
Some discoloration is caused by disturbances that happen during tooth growth and cause stains in the enamel (hard outer covering) or the dentin (hard tissue under the enamel). Stains can also be caused by excess fluoride. In cases of childhood malnutrition, chronic illness, long term use of some medications or radiation therapy, tooth spots can result and the teeth will appear malformed (i.e. chipped or broken).
Back teeth (molars) may also be affected. By asking questions about your child’s health history and looking at the teeth, we may be able to identify the cause and suggest options to improve their appearance.
What is a malocclusion?
Malocclusion is a faulty bite. Most of the time, it happens because the size and shape of the teeth don’t match that of the jaws. It can also happen because the upper and lower jaws don’t match each other and the other bones of the face. A look at your child’s profile (side view of the head and face) may help you to see whether there is a problem with the growth of their jaw and facial bones.
The genetics of the parents determine jaw growth and tooth size of their children. Tooth decay of the baby teeth, premature loss of baby teeth from tooth decay and crowding are major causes of malocclusion. Premature loss of baby teeth due to lack of jaw space from erupting adult teeth also causes malocclusion.
My 6 year olds teeth are crowded, should I be concerned?
Yes, although crowding is common, we need to consider your child’s future oral health. A child with crowded teeth and jaw problems will not necessarily have more problems as they become an adult. However, adults with crowded teeth have more problems (tooth decay, gingivitis, periodontal disease, TMJ problems) than adults with good jaw and tooth alignment
Because adult teeth are larger than baby teeth, jaw size and growth may not provide enough space. If you still see crowding by 8-9 years when all of the four upper and four lower adult teeth have erupted, the crowding will probably not improve. For most children and adults, crowding is the most common malocclusion. Sometimes a baby tooth is lost early because of lack of jaw space for new adult teeth. If you see crowding, you should have an orthodontist or paediatric dentist examine your child.
What is orthodontic treatment and when should it be considered?
Orthodontic treatment corrects crowding or other bite problems. It is usually provided by an orthodontist who is a dentist with special training. Most orthodontic therapy is done around 10-12 years. However, more treatment is being done when adult teeth first appear (age 6-7 years) and even earlier for some bite problems in the baby dentition (crossbite).
Early treatment has many benefits:
- Remove interference to proper jaw development
- Harmonise upper and lower jaw growth and development
- Improve direction of tooth eruption
- Decrease risk of trauma to protruded front teeth
- Remove traumatic bite positions to front teeth
- Correct harmful bite habits Improve aesthetics and self-esteem
- Simplify and/or reduce treatment time for later orthodontic therapy
- Reduce the chance for impacted permanent teeth
- Improve some speech problems
- Preserve space for the permanent teeth