Children’s Dental Check-up FAQ

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At which Age my child’s Teeth will Start to Come Through?

Your child’s primary teeth start to form within the jawbone before they are born and will begin to erupt at around six months of age. In some cases they come through much earlier – even be present at birth – and in other cases may not appear until around the child’s first birthday. The first teeth to erupt are normally the central incisors, which are the two middle front teeth in the lower jaw. The full set of 20 primary teeth should have come through by the age of two. When your child is about six years old, the first permanent adult teeth will appear behind the baby teeth. The lower front primary teeth are the first to be lost, and are followed shortly after by the upper front primary teeth. By the time your child is 13 years old, they should have all their permanent teeth, except their wisdom teeth. The wisdom teeth usually erupt somewhere between 18-25 years of age. For some people it can take even longer, while others miss out on wisdom teeth altogether.

How painful is teething, and what can I do to relieve my baby’s discomfort?

When a new tooth breaks through the gums, it often causes teething pain that can make your baby irritable and unhappy. Because your baby can’t tell you what’s bothering them, you should look for these symptoms of discomfort:

  • an increase in whingeing, complaining, crying and irritability
  • a slightly raised temperature
  • red cheeks that are warm to touch
  • an upset stomach and loss of appetite
  • more dribbling than usual
  • pulling on one ear, which usually indicates the side that’s experiencing pain
  • an increase in the frequency of soiled nappies.

To help relieve the pain, you can gently rub your baby’s gums with your index or forefinger. (Don’t forget to thoroughly wash your hands first!) You can also give your baby a teething ring, which can be cooled in the fridge prior to use (however never place it in the freezer), or give them something soft to bite such as a wet washcloth. If the pain and discomfort persists, you can obtain a special teething gel from your pharmacist, however such gels should generally not be used if the baby is younger than three months old.

Please note: You should never give aspirin to a baby or child, unless you are directed to do so by your medical practitioner.

What’s the best way to care for my child’s teeth?

Oral hygiene is extremely important for everyone, and although the primary teeth will eventually be replaced by permanent teeth, good oral hygiene should always be present.

The role of primary teeth is to reserve the correct space in the gums for the permanent teeth, and to help your child to chew and speak properly. Correct daily dental care is important to ensure that primary teeth are not lost due to dental decay.

The risk of dental decay can also be reduced by considering your baby’s nutrition and avoiding certain foods and drinks:

  • Don’t give your baby or child sugary drinks at night after their teeth have been cleaned. (This also applies to maintaining the health of adult teeth.)
  • Avoid giving your baby foods that contain added sugar or concentrated fruit juice. The same applies to sugary or concentrated fruit drinks, which should be limited to about half-a-cup per day, preferably diluted with water.
  • Don’t add sugar to weaning foods that you prepare at home.
  • Don’t put sweetened fruit juices, cordial or fizzy drinks in your baby’s bottle.
  • Never dip a dummy or pacifier into anything sweet such as honey, jam, condensed milk, syrup, glycerine and the like.
  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of water.

Of course a healthy diet doesn’t reduce the need to clean your child’s teeth. Dental decay occurs when the tooth enamel is in prolonged contact with food, sweet liquids, sugars (even that from fruit) and food acid. Normally occurring bacteria in the mouth feed on these substances to create a sticky coating of plaque, which in turn eats into the tooth enamel and causes decay.

How do you clean a young child’s teeth?

Once the first teeth erupt, your baby’s daily hygiene routine should also include cleaning their teeth for about two minutes in the morning and in the evening. This is often best done by standing or sitting behind your child, and cradling their chin in your hand so you can reach their top and bottom teeth more easily.

You should use a child’s toothbrush with a small head and soft rounded bristles, together with a pea-sized amount of fluoride-based toothpaste, and then follow this routine:

  • First clean the chewing surfaces using short back-and-forth strokes.
  • Next, clean the outer tooth surfaces by holding the brush at about 45-degrees and moving it back-and-forth in short gentle strokes, and including the gum line.
  • Clean the inner front tooth surface by holding the brush vertically and using the tip in gentle up-and-down strokes down to the gums.
  • Make sure that the gum line and the back teeth are thoroughly cleaned.

When your child is about two, you should also start flossing their teeth. Once a day is ideal, while twice a week should be the minimum.

While you should teach children how to brush their own teeth at an early age, a child will require supervision of their teeth cleaning routines until they are at least eight years old. A good way to get them started is to let them do a little brushing on their own, before you complete the job.

By encouraging your child to look after their primary teeth, you’ll be instilling good habits that will help them look after their permanent teeth for the rest of their life. And that also means they’ll enjoy all the benefits and confidence of a great smile and good oral health.

When should my child first see a dentist?

Even though a baby usually doesn’t need a dental check-up before their first teeth erupt – or they reach their first birthday – we recommend that you bring your baby with you whenever you, your partner or your other children have an appointment with a Holistic Dental practitioner. This will help them get used to the smells, noise and surroundings of a dental practice, and make them more relaxed and prepared for their actual first visit.

Some of the things your Holistic Dental practitioner will look for during your baby’s first check-up may include:

  • how many baby teeth have erupted and how they are spaced and placed
  • any indicators that your child is at risk of dental problems such as crooked teeth
  • how effectively the teeth are being cleaned
  • changes in colour, or spotting of teeth, which can signifying early decay

Your Holistic Dental practitioner will discuss any questions you have about caring for your child’s teeth and talk to you about the preventative steps you can take to ensure your child enjoys the best dental health. A diagnostic X-ray may be taken, and if required, your child may be referred to a dental specialist such as a paediatric dentist or an orthodontist.

Once your child has had their first appointment with a Holistic Dental practitioner, you should bring them back at least twice a year for ongoing check-ups. By commencing this routine early in life and focussing on prevention rather than cure, you’ll be giving your child the best chance possible to keep their natural teeth for life.

What is the purpose of fissure sealants?

The grinding and biting surfaces of the teeth – especially the first permanent molars – are characterised by natural grooves and depressions that can be deep and narrow. These ‘fissures’ can be difficult to clean properly, which increases the risk that particles of food remain stuck in the grooves even after your child has brushed their teeth. When bacteria feed on these food substances, they create the sticky clear plaque that attacks the tooth enamel and causes dental decay.

Fissure sealants are an acrylic-like material than your Holistic Dental practitioner applies to the biting surfaces of high-risk primary and permanent teeth, to create a barrier that will protect them from decay.

We normally recommend considering a fissure sealant treatment once your child’s first permanent back teeth appear. This is usually at around six years of age.

While fissure sealants are mostly applied to children’s teeth, they can also be applied to the teeth of adults who are seeking additional protection against tooth decay. However, because fissure sealants can only be applied to the biting surfaces of the teeth, and not the surfaces in-between the teeth, daily flossing continues to be an important component of maintaining good oral hygiene.

How are sealants applied and how long do they last?

Applying a fissure sealant is a painless process. First, a solution is applied to the chewing surface of the tooth, which prepares the enamel for bonding with the sealant. The tooth is then washed and dried before the sealant is applied, which is then hardened through the use of an ultraviolet light.

Fissure sealants can last several years, however this depends on your child’s chewing patterns. For example, if your child grinds their teeth (has bruxism) or eats a lot of excessively hard or tough foods, the treatment may need to be reapplied or renewed sooner.

Your Holistic Dental practitioner will check the condition of your child’s fissure sealants during their twice yearly check-ups.