Baby Teeth Guide
Why are baby teeth important?
Baby teeth may be referred to as: milk teeth or primary teeth or deciduous teeth.
- Milk teeth guide the adult teeth growing underneath them into the correct position.
- If they go bad it can damage the adult tooth underneath it.
- Baby teeth are not as strong as adult teeth because the enamel layer is very thin. If the enamel is damaged by accidents or tooth decay then your child may experience tooth pain and may lose their baby teeth early.
- Early loss will affect the necessary space required for the adult tooth to grow into. This may result in a series of events resulting in a bad bite and poor aesthetics.
- Baby teeth are also crucial for biting, speaking properly, chewing foods properly (for better digestion) and most importantly for maintaining a healthy smile.
How do I look after baby teeth?
- Eat & Drink Healthy: fruit, raw vegetables, milk and water are good. Stick to breast milk where possible. Water in bottles only. Children should not fall asleep with bottles in the mouth. Drinking juice from a bottle must be avoided. Fruit juice is ok with meals, from a normal cup but not inbetween meals.
- Minimise sugar frequency and amount: bacteria are always in the mouth and feed on sugars to produce acid which can create holes in teeth. Sugary foods and drink are ok with with main meals but not as a snack. Avoid snacking as this will cause more sugar attacks on teeth.
- Brush properly: technique is paramount. Brushing should start at the age of 1 year. 2 minutes twice a day using a medium soft toothbrush with a small head. Short round strokes with gentle pressure on the gums and tooth surfaces is mandatory. Brush 30minutes after all meals where possible.
- Use Fluoride toothpaste: fluoride helps to repair teeth (There is lots of evidence and research to support this)
- Visit the dentist regularly: first dental visit should be when the first teeth erupt (6-12months of age)
What is the importance of tooth structure?
Teeth have two parts: the crown( what you can see) and the root which lies below the gum. Under the roots of the baby teeth are the buds of the 'adult teeth.' The baby teeth roots guide the adult teeth as they grow into the correct position.
The crown of a baby tooth has several layers:
- Tooth Enamel: Smooth, shiny outer layer of the tooth. Hardest material in the body which makes it superb for chewing foods.
- Tooth Dentine: Lays under enamel and forms the bulk of the
tooth. Dentine is sensitive to cold and hot.
- Tooth Nerve and Blood supply: The living part of the tooth which is very sensitive.
When do baby teeth erupt & what is the pattern?
There are 20 baby teeth in total (5 in each corner of the mouth: 2 Incisors, 1 Canine and 2 Molars). There are no Premolars!! Baby teeth fall out/shed between the ages of 6 to 12years.
What happens if baby teeth do not come out on time?
Do not worry, take your child to the dentist so that they can assess potential causes and advise you accordingly. Some baby teeth take longer to come out than the average.
Baby teeth problems
- Tooth decay: can be caused by diet habits, brushing habits or a combination of both. Tooth decay may or may not hurt. Regular dental visits allow for early management of tooth decay potentially avoiding tooth pain and tooth loss.
- Bad habits: bottle feeding should be slowed down from 1 year
Thumb sucking should stop by the age of 3-4. Prolonged thumb sucking can cause 'crooked'/'goofy' teeth / bite problems (growth of the jaw and bones as well). Pacifiers should not be a substitute for thumb sucking.
Tips to break the habit: praise children when they do not suck their thumb, agree on a code word to be used as 'no thumb sucking' (kids love code words!), keep their hands busy with games and puzzles. Most importantly tell them what happens if they continue the habit ('Goofy' teeth)
- Teething: from the age of 6 months to 3 years as the baby teeth grow out of the gums, the gums may feel tender. We recommend using a cold wet cloth to rub the gums or massage the gums with a clean, cold finger.