A baby’s primary or baby teeth are just as important as their permanent teeth. Baby teeth help a young child to learn to chew and speak properly and maintain the correct space in a child’s gums to allow for the eruption of their permanent teeth.
Baby teeth start to form in the jawbone before birth. A baby’s first primary tooth usually erupts at about six months of age but this can happen as early as birth or as late as the child’s first birthday. The average child has a full set of 20 baby teeth by the age of two to three years. The first visit to the dentist should be within six months of the eruption of the first tooth or by the child’s first birthday.
Most babies are irritable when new teeth break through their gums. Here are some of the signs and symptoms to look out for:
It is very important not to ignore symptoms such as fever and diarrhoea. It is recommended that they are treated as unrelated symptoms to teething and to seek medical advice to eliminate other causes.
To help relieve the discomfort of teething, the Australian Dental Association suggests:
Signs and symptoms may appear and disappear over several days. Ask your dentist or pharmacist for advice before using any pain reliever specifically created for babies and toddlers. Never give aspirin to a baby or young child.
Thumb sucking is a natural reflex in babies and young children. Most children lose interest in thumb sucking and dummies at two to four years of age. Children who continue to suck their thumb or fingers after the permanent teeth have appeared risk developing crooked teeth, especially if the sucking is forceful or frequent. Also, speech defects may arise, especially with the “s” and “th” sounds. Gently encourage your child to give up thumb sucking. See your dentist for advice if your child cannot stop thumb sucking by the end of the first year at school.
Early Childhood Caries
As soon as your baby develops their first tooth, they are at risk of dental decay, which is known as Early Childhood Caries (ECC). The following tips can help prevent ECC in your child:
Diet plays a significant role in the health of your child’s teeth.
What food contributes to dental decay?
Foods high in refined carbohydrates (sugar), such as concentrated fruit snack bars, lollies, muesli bars, sweet biscuits, some breakfast cereals and sugary drinks and juices can contribute to dental decay, especially if eaten often and over long periods. Highly refined packaged foods such as savoury crackers and chips can also have high levels of carbohydrate (sugar).
Tips to help minimise dental decay in your child’s teeth:
You need to make sure you clean your child’s teeth morning and night, as even many healthy foods contain high amounts of sugar. Importantly, a healthy diet must be complemented by good oral hygiene – brushing and flossing teeth and regular dental check-ups. Daily flossing and brushing greatly reduces the risk of tooth decay.
How to brush your baby’s teeth
If your toddler resists brushing or cannot sit still for two minutes, then try these suggestions:
Encouraging healthy eating and drinking habits and good oral hygiene in your child is the best way to help them have healthy teeth for life.