HEALTH: Dental Care for Children

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By Dr. Matthew Weekes
August 28th, 2013 Edition

The human dentition has two sets of teeth. The first set is the primary or baby teeth which are followed by permanent or adult teeth.

There are 20 primary teeth that progressively start to erupt from the front to the back, from the age of 6 months and should be completed by the age of 3 years.

The baby’s mouth and teeth should be cleaned. It is best to start even before the teeth arrive by wiping the gums with wet gauze or wash cloth during bath time. Wrap the gauze or cloth around the index finger and rub it gently over the gum. After the teeth erupt you can start to use a baby toothbrush, with a tiny amount of fluoridated toothpaste about the size of a rice grain.

The preservation of the baby teeth, until they are ready to fall out and be replaced by permanent teeth, is very important. Not only are they needed for chewing food to ensure good nutrition but they also guide the permanent teeth into their correct position in the arch.

Parents should supervise dental home care for their children until they are old enough to assume that responsibility.

By the age of three, children should be taken to the dental office for their first check up and every 6 months after their initial visit.

Since the baby teeth play an important role in guiding the permanent teeth into their correct position, then none of these teeth should be lost prematurely, whether as a result of cavities or knocked out as a result of an accident.

Early detection of cavities will result in the restoration of these teeth and prevent extractions. If however a tooth is lost, the dentist can place a small device in the space to preserve it until the replacement permanent tooth is ready to erupt.

At an early stage the dentist can evaluate the jaws, growth pattern, relationship to one another, size of teeth, spacing and determine if there will be severe jaw deformities or crowding as the permanent teeth erupt. In some of these cases early intervention and treatment will prevent costly surgical procedures in the future. Jaw growth is best controlled during the period of active bone growth.

Harmful habits may also deform the arches and are best treated in the early stages.

Therefore it is best to partner with your dentist early in your child’s dental care.

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