Teeth require daily care, whether they’re just cutting through a baby’s gums or barely hanging on to an elderly jaw. People only get one set of adult teeth, and they need to be taken care of as well as possible. Before these adult teeth come in, it’s also important to properly care for a child’s baby teeth, even though they are temporary. This will help prevent painful procedures for the kid. Also, there’s no better way to start healthy oral hygiene habits than to begin when your child is little. Helping them brush their brand new teeth and getting them into the habit of regular cleanings at the dentist can instill healthy dental habits for years to come! Here, Flintlock Dental will discuss other ways you can help care for your kid’s teeth from infancy all the way up to adulthood.
Before Teeth Arrive
The first teeth can appear in a baby’s mouth within a surprisingly large age range. Some infants pop out of the womb with their first teeth already in place, while others don’t start teething until after they’re a year old. Before your child’s first teeth arrive, you can still start to take care of that gummy smile. Use a wet (clean) washcloth to wipe the baby’s mouth and gums once or twice a day. This is a great habit to incorporate before bedtime. By doing this, you get your child into the habit of cleaning his or her teeth from the get-go, which may make it easier to continue the process into toddlerhood.
If you want to keep an eye out for your baby’s first teeth, look for the bottom central incisors. After that, the top central incisors should quickly pop up, followed by the lateral incisors, the first molars, and then finally the canines and remaining molars.
Caring for Primary Teeth
Once those teeth start coming in, it’s crucial to start taking care of them every day. Establishing good oral hygiene and healthy eating habits will help prevent the onset of tooth and gum decay as your child gets older. Here’s a timeline that can help you stay on the right track for taking care of your kid’s teeth:
- First Tooth - Brush twice a day with a soft bristle toothbrush and water.
- 12 Months - Take your child for the first dentist visit. (Go earlier if you have any concerns.)
- 18 Months - Add a pea-sized amount of children’s toothpaste to a soft bristle toothbrush, and encourage them to spit it out rather than swallow it. This is great practice for using toothpaste that contains fluoride when the kid gets older.
- 2-3 Years - Start flossing when teeth are touching each other.
- 4-5 Years - Start the process of teaching your child to brush his or her own teeth.
- 6 Years - Switch over to adult toothpaste and keep encouraging your child to spit it out. You can also start teaching them to floss their own teeth.
- 8 Years - Allow your child to brush and floss their teeth unsupervised.
- Continue to take your child in for regular dental visits to ensure that their teeth are strong and healthy and developing normally.
It’s important to keep up with this timeline of events, because if baby teeth start to decay, it can lead to other dental problems with the gums and teeth surrounding the decaying ones. Sometimes these problems can lead to hospital visits with local anesthetic to correct the decay problem, which can be expensive and traumatizing. If you’re struggling to get your children to take care of their teeth, check out Flintlock Dental’s blog on ways to get your kids to brush their teeth!
Also, if your child is drinking from a bottle or sippy cup, don't let them go to bed with the container. Kids' teeth need to be brushed after the final meal of the day, and leaving milk or juice to sit in their mouths overnight allows bacteria to feast on the sugars, speeding up decay.
Loss of Primary Teeth
There will come a time as your kid gets older when those baby teeth start to fall out. This often happens around six years of age but can begin one or two years earlier. It’s common for primary teeth to fall out a bit earlier for girls than for boys. When your kid’s teeth start to wiggle, there are a few things you can do to help ease their mind:
- Reassure them that losing these teeth is natural and that adult ones will soon replace them.
- Use a cold compress or over the counter pain relieving medicine to help ease the pain.
- Explain what’s happening and what to expect. It’s common for the gums to bleed a little bit and feel sore as the tooth falls out.
- If you want to, use the fairytale of the Tooth Fairy. It can help make losing the teeth fun, as the child has a treat to look forward to when they wake up in the morning.
Growing Permanent Teeth
Adult teeth develop right under the baby teeth as the child grows and are waiting to push those baby teeth out and erupt at the right time. By the age of six, these adult teeth will start to make their way through. By the age of 21, most people will have 32 permanent teeth, with 16 on the top and 16 on the bottom row. In some cases, a person’s extra molars (called wisdom teeth) will need to be surgically removed to make sure that the mouth doesn’t get overcrowded, the teeth don’t get pushed out of alignment, and the gums don’t get infected.
As with the primary teeth, there’s an order that you’ll start seeing adult teeth erupt through. Again, this timeline will vary with each child. Regular visits to the dentist can help you make sure the teeth are coming in like they should. Here's a basic timeline of when you can expect to see these teeth erupting, according to the American Dental Association:
- First Molars - Between 6 and 7 years old.
- Central Incisors - Between 6 and 8 years old.
- Lateral Incisors - Between 7 and 8 years old.
- Canine Teeth - Between 9 and 12 years old.
- Premolars - Between 10 and 12 years old.
- Second Molars - Between 11 and 13 years old.
- Third Molars (Wisdom Teeth) - Between the ages of 17 and 21, if they come in at all.
As your children start to get involved in sports and other physical activities, you need to make sure that their teeth are protected. The use of a mouthguard can help protect the primary teeth as well as the permanent teeth still waiting to erupt. Here are some factors to consider if you go to get your child a mouthguard:
- Your dentist can make sure that the mouthguard fits correctly and ensure that it’s the right kind for your child’s mouth and teeth.
- Make sure your child wears the mouthguard at all practices and games. Also let the coach know they have one, and see if it can be added as part of the standard uniform for the team.
- Update the mouthguard every 12 to 18 months, to ensure that it still fits well and will help protect their teeth correctly. Take it to their regular dental appointments, and your dentist can check it for them.
- Keep the mouthguard clean.
- Make sure that when it’s not in use, that it’s stored correctly and away from extreme heat.
Helping your children take care of and protect their teeth will help lead them to a lifetime of good oral hygiene. You are the first and best example your kids have to follow when it comes to these habits, so model good behavior when it comes to taking care of your own teeth. Also make sure to get them to regular dental appointments, so a professional can keep track of developments as the teeth come in and give them a good cleaning on a regular basis.