5 minute read
Seeing your child pass their development milestones is an amazing experience, and their teeth involve some of the biggest changes of all. Having some idea of what to expect and when will give you an idea of whether your child’s mouth is developing normally or if you should be concerned.
Good habits start early in life, and when you make good oral hygiene part of your child’s routine from the beginning, you can improve their chance of looking forward to a lifetime of good oral health. From their first tooth to their first dental visit, here are the most important milestones to follow.
Most babies get their first tooth from 6 to 10 months, though this milestone can also come earlier or later. Children should have 20 primary teeth in total (also called milk teeth or baby teeth). All of these teeth are already formed at birth, but hidden inside the gums until they’re ready to come through (erupt).
Teeth normally erupt in groups, though one tooth may appear a few days or weeks ahead of the others. The average timeline for eruption is:
- 6 to 10 months – the two bottom front teeth (central incisors)
- 8 to 13 months – the two upper front teeth (central incisors)
- 8 to 16 months – the four lateral incisors on either side of the central incisors
- 13 to 19 months – the first four chewing teeth (first molars)
- 16 to 23 months – the four canine or ‘eye’ teeth between the incisors and molars
- 25 to 33 months – the four back teeth (second molars)
Most children have all of their primary teeth by their third year, but some take longer. Some babies take 12 to 18 months to start teething, but you should talk to a paediatric dentist if you’re concerned about them missing their milestones.
From around the age of 6 years, the teething process starts again as kids lose their baby teeth and their permanent adult teeth emerge to replace them. Girls generally start to get their permanent teeth earlier than boys of the same age.
As with primary teeth, the timeline for secondary teeth is only a general guide, and many children lose their teeth earlier or later. The order in which the teeth appear is slightly different than for primary teeth:
- 6 to 7 years – first molars
- 6 to 8 years – central incisors
- 7 to 8 years – lateral incisors
- 9 to 13 years – canine teeth and premolars
- 11 to 13 years – second molars
Later on, most people grow their third molars (wisdom teeth) in their late teens to early 20s. There are usually four wisdom teeth, but not everyone gets them. As these teeth are less necessary, dentists may recommend wisdom tooth removal if a tooth is stuck (impacted) in the gum or causes problems such as teeth crowding.
Helping your child with teething
Teething can be an uncomfortable time for children and their parents, with pain and sleep disturbances being common. The teething period lasts for about 8 days per tooth, starting around 4 days before the tooth fully erupts and taking a few more days to go away.
You can help your baby or young child to deal with the pain and discomfort of teething by massaging the eruption site softly using a clean finger or cloth and letting them bite on a teething ring or rusk (if they’re already eating solid food). These can be chilled, which helps to relieve some pain. It’s not recommended to use amber teething necklaces or gels, as these can be safety hazards.
For older children getting their secondary teeth, placing a cold compress or ice-pack against their cheek could help to relieve the discomfort of teething. Alternatively, you can talk to your child’s dentist for advice about pain relief medication.
Losing teeth can be an upsetting or confusing time for some children. If your child seems distressed about a tooth feeling wobbly and coming out, reassure them that a new tooth will be along to replace it soon. Otherwise, rely on the tried and tested story of the tooth fairy if you think the promise of a reward could help them to deal with their tooth loss.
Caring for your child’s teeth
Some parents feel that baby teeth don’t need as much care as adult teeth, since they’re going to be lost in a few years anyway, but these early teeth are vital for their development. If a baby tooth is lost prematurely to tooth decay, this can cause the surrounding teeth to drift, causing problems for the adult teeth growing beneath. Missing teeth may also affect a child’s ability to eat and speak.
Baby teeth are more vulnerable to tooth decay and cavities than permanent teeth, as the enamel layer is much thinner. The good news is that tooth decay can usually be prevented when you help your child to follow good oral hygiene. This should include:
Children’s teeth should be brushed twice a day using a soft bristled toothbrush appropriate for their size. Young children will need help to brush until they have the dexterity to use a toothbrush correctly.
- From birth – even before your baby has any teeth, you can help to keep their mouth healthy by gently wiping their gums with a clean finger or cloth
- 6 months – when your child gets their first teeth, brush using a toothbrush and plain water only
- 18 months – brush using a pea-sized amount of low-fluoride children’s toothpaste, encouraging your child to spit out the toothpaste to prevent fluorosis
- 4 to 5 years – children may be ready to start brushing their own teeth, but they still require supervision
- 6 to 7 years – your child may be ready to switch to adult toothpaste, still using a pea-sized amount and not swallowing
- 8 years – your child may be ready to brush their own teeth without supervision
Your child’s dentist can tell you whether they’re brushing correctly and demonstrate the proper brushing technique during their regular check-ups. Some children find an electric toothbrush easier to use than a manual toothbrush. These can also feature lights and sounds to make tooth brushing more appealing, or timers to encourage kids to brush for the recommended 2 minutes.
You should start to clean between your child’s teeth as soon as the teeth start to touch together – usually around 2 and a half years.
Flossing is important for kids as well as adults. If your child doesn’t floss, leftover food may remain on parts of their teeth and gums that a toothbrush can’t reach. This can lead to bacteria and plaque accumulating and increase their risk of tooth decay and cavities.
Children’s floss is available in different colours and flavours to appeal to little flossers. If your child doesn’t like the feeling of floss, their dentist may recommend other options such as an interdental brush or water flosser.
Food and drink
A healthy, nutritious diet is important for children’s dental development as well as their overall health. Encouraging kids to eat fresh fruit and vegetables from a young age will provide vitamins and other nutrients to help strengthen their teeth, while milk, cheese and other dairy products provide valuable calcium for building and repairing tooth enamel.
Sugar contributes to the energy that growing kids need, but most Australian kids have too much sugar, according to national recommended daily limits and the World Health Organization (WHO). Cutting down on sugar at home and in school lunchboxes helps children to reduce the risk of tooth decay.
Some of the worst offenders for tooth decay are soft drinks, fruit juices and cordials, which are high in sugar and acids that can wear down tooth enamel. Swapping these drinks for water will help your child to get the hydration they need without the tooth damage – and if your local tap water is fluoridated, drinking will even help to protect their teeth.
Visiting the dentist
Regular check-ups with a dentist are important at all ages, but they can be especially helpful for young children whose teeth are changing rapidly and more prone to decay. When a child has regular dental appointments, their dentists may be able to spot and treat problems before they cause pain or serious damage.
It’s recommended that children see a dentist around the time of their first birthday or within 6 months of getting their first tooth. Their dentist will recommend how often they should visit based on their individual oral health needs.
During their check-up, your child’s dentist will help them to feel comfortable and relaxed while inspecting their mouth for possible signs of decay. Dental x-rays are not generally used for young children unless their dentist needs a closer look to diagnose a problem or plan their treatment.
If the dentist finds signs of decay or a developmental problem, they may recommend a treatment such as a filling or orthodontics for older children. They may also discuss preventive treatments such as fissure sealants or a custom mouthguard to help kids avoid decay and serious dental injuries.
See a children’s dentist in Armadale
If you want more advice about how to care for your child’s teeth, or it’s time for their check-up, get in touch with our friendly team at Kelmscott Dental. Our family dentists in Perth are highly trained and experienced in working with children of all ages and we take extra care to create a positive environment with the aim of encouraging a lifetime of good oral health care.
Call us today on (08) 9495 7999 to schedule an appointment at Kelmscott Dental or contact us.
- Better Health Channel. Dental checks for young children [Online] 2019 [Accessed September 2020] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/dental-checks-for-young-children
- Better Health Channel. Teeth development in children [Online] 2018 [Accessed September 2020] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/teeth-development-in-children
- Healthdirect. How your baby’s teeth develop [Online] 2017 [Accessed September 2020] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/how-your-babys-teeth-develop