Children's & Baby's Teeth

Avoiding tooth decay

The importance of diet

Avoiding giving a baby or a young child unnecessary sugars is a good way to establish healthy eating patterns to protect their teeth for life. Milk and water are the only drinks that should be put into a baby's bottle. Don't give a child sugary drinks in bottles or use pacifiers (dummies) dipped in a sugary substance.

Babies should be introduced to a feeding cup as soon as possible. Fruit juice given to children should be diluted (one part juice to ten parts water) and given in a cup. Restrict juices to mealtimes only. If the child tends to snack between meals, remember that cheese is a very tooth friendly food.  Try to avoid sweets, cakes and biscuits.

The importance of cleaning teeth

Plaque will start to form on a child's teeth and gums as soon as the first tooth appears (erupts). So, it is very important to begin a suitable toothbrushing routine as soon as possible. The brushing routine that is established with a child at an early age should continue throughout their life.

Use a toothbrush that is appropriate for the child's age and stage of tooth development. A small-headed soft brush should be used as soon as the first tooth erupts. Character toothbrushes are an excellent way to make brushing fun for young children. A small smear of a children's fluoridated toothpaste should be used on the brush. As the child gets older a slightly larger brush with medium bristles may be used.

The importance of fluoride

Fluoride occurs naturally, at some level, in the water in most areas and helps to prevent tooth decay when at the optimum concentration. The amount of fluoride in any area’s water supply can be found out by contacting the Local Water Authority. 

Fluoride supplements come in tablet form and may be prescribed by the dentist if active decay is identified during routine dental examinations. A varnish can be applied by the dentist or hygienist in the surgery. Although fluoride is a valuable protective agent, like many things it is important to have just the right amount, not too much or too little. 

Fluoride is present in most toothpastes but special children's toothpastes are better for babies and infants because the amount of fluoride is controlled specifically for their needs. To avoid excess fluoride from toothpastes, children under six years should be supervised when toothbrushing and only use a small smear of toothpaste. Children over seven years can use the family fluoride toothpaste but only a pea sized amount on their brush.

Teething and eruption dates

The exact dates will vary from child to child, but the following guide will give some idea of what to expect. Permanent tooth development in girls maybe more advanced than in boys.

Primary, baby or deciduous teeth

Adult or permanent teeth

Healthy gums

With all children it is important to establish good oral hygiene practice as early as possible to prevent the development of common gum diseases (such as gingivitis) in later childhood and teenage years.

 

Children's drinks

Fizzy drinks (whether diet or regular), artificial fruit squashes, cocoa and milkshakes can all cause harm to teeth. The sugar in them can lead to decay whilst the acid in both normal and diet drinks attacks the enamel covering the teeth (this is called erosion). Try to get children to drink only milk or water between meals. Dilute drinks, when applicable, as much as possible. Give sugary drinks at meal times only. Limit fizzy drinks to treats for special occasions only. After brushing teeth before bedtime, only let children drink water. Always try to get sugar-free formulas of liquid medicines from the pharmacist.

Visiting the dentist

It is a good idea to get babies and young children used to the idea of having dental examinations by taking them along to the dentist when adults are having dental check-ups. Dental visits by infants should begin at 18 months if only to become familiar with the dentist and to have a ‘ride’ in the dental chair. Once confidence is gained by two years of age it will be possible to examine the deciduous teeth, which should be present at this age. While for most children their teeth will develop normally, for some children there are variations in the number of teeth, their size, colour and shape. 

If you have any concerns about your child's teeth, you should consult your dentist as soon as possible.

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