Baby teeth are the primary teeth. They are the first to appear in the mouth and are normally all lost and replaced by permanent (adult) teeth by early adolescence.
There are a total of 20 baby teeth, 10 in each jaw. The Baby Teeth begin forming before the baby is born. Some babies are born with one or two teeth already present, but usually they appear at around 4-6 months. Some may not get any teeth until they are 12 months old. At about 5-6 years of age the baby teeth are replaced by adult or permanent teeth. It is not uncommon for the permanent teeth to first appear on the inside of the baby tooth, making a double row of teeth, however these usually come forward and the baby tooth is lost.
Although the baby teeth will eventually be replaced, it is important they be taken care of. If baby teeth are lost too early by tooth decay or accidents, it may cause the adult teeth to come in too early as well. There will not be enough space for them and crooked teeth may result. Also, teaching your child good tooth care will develop good habits for the continued care of their adult teeth.
Fluoride is a mineral that is very effective at strengthening tooth enamel and preventing cavities. Babies under 6 months of age receive adequate fluoride from breast milk or formula. Some towns have fluoride added to their water supply.
Tooth brushing is essential to remove plaque, the soft, sticky, bacteria-containing deposits that accumulate on the teeth causing tooth decay. Children 2 years and older should brush their teeth at least once a day, preferable at night. Use a very soft, small brush and a tiny amount of toothpaste, specially formulated for Baby Teeth. Children should be supervised, with parents doing most of the brushing, as children do not have the dexterity to manipulate a toothbrush until about 7 years of age.
Dentist visits can be commenced at any age. Most Dentists will allow you to bring your infant with you during your check up, to familiarise them with the Dentist's rooms. Once all 20 Baby Teeth have come in, about age 3-4, annual check ups should commence.
Bottle Caries affect young children who are not yet drinking from a cup. Children should NEVER be allowed to go to sleep with a bottle in their mouths. Milk, fruit juices and cordials will rot teeth if left in the mouth for many hours. All these drinks break down into acids which cause tooth decay. If you must leave your baby with a bottle, ensure it is water only.
Ask your Dentist about how to brush and care for your child's teeth. What to do if a Baby Tooth is knocked out accidentally: - If it is clean, place it straight back in its socket. - If it is dirty wash it in milk - if milk is not available, use water but only for a few seconds. - Do not scrub the root surface and try not to touch the root. - When the tooth is cleaned, try to replace the tooth in its socket. - If you can't replace it, wrap the tooth in plastic wrap or store it in milk. - Most importantly, get your child to a Dentist immediately, with the tooth.
Ask your Pharmacist for advice 1) Toothbrushes should be soft with a flexible handle. Your Pharmacy stocks a wide range suitable for children. 2) Toothpaste contains fluoride and helps strengthen teeth. Ask your Pharmacist for a type suitable for Baby Teeth. 3) Flossing is recommended once per day to remove food residue from in between teeth. 4) Avoid sugar as this is the greatest cause of tooth decay. Avoid excessive chocolates, cakes, biscuits, soft drinks and lollies. 5) Feeding cups for toddlers reduce the amount of liquid that contacts the teeth. Wean your toddler from a bottle to a feeding cup as soon as possible. Your Pharmacist stocks a range of feeding cups. 6) Mouthguards may be recommended for sporting activities. Your Pharmacist can recommend a suitable one.
ORGANISATIONS and SUPPORT GROUPSSee the Australian Dental Association topic on the Healthpoint.