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Parents guide for dental health for kids

Prior to baby’s birth, and by the third week post conception, the baby’s mouth starts to form. Over the next few weeks, the tongue, jaws and palate develop as well. During the sixth week, formation of embryonic cells or tooth buds that eventually form into teeth commences. By eight weeks, the tooth buds of all of the primary (baby) teeth can be discerned; by twenty weeks, the tooth buds of permanent teeth start to develop.
Post birth, the development of the teeth within the jaw continues after birth. Normally, the first primary teeth start to appear in the mouth around six months after birth. The primary central incisors, lateral incisors, first molars, canines and second molars normally appear in this order at intervals from 6-24 months. By age two and a half years, most children have their full complement of 20 primary teeth - 10 teeth in the upper (top) jaw and 10 teeth in the lower (bottom) jaw. As the child grows, the jaws also grow and spaces may begin to appear between the primary teeth.

About baby’s teeth

People used to say “oh, they’re just baby teeth”. In fact, baby teeth are important. Good, healthy baby teeth will pave the way for good healthy adult teeth. And by helping children to take good care of their teeth, you are starting habits that will last them all their lives.
When a baby is born, the first set of teeth is already there, just under the gums. The arrival of a baby’s first tooth is always an exciting time! The front teeth usually begin to come through the gums between six and twelve months. Over the next 2 years the remaining ‘baby’ teeth will appear. By the time a child is 3 years old all 20 baby teeth will have arrived. These teeth are very important for eating, talking and smiling. They also keep spaces for the adult teeth.

Diet and a Baby's Dental Health

Babies are not born with a sweet tooth. Babies will enjoy home-made baby foods without sugar. If you’re buying baby foods, look out for the ones without sugar. You don’t have to buy special juices either. Babies will enjoy ordinary fruit juice. For very young babies you should dilute juice with plenty of cooled boiled water.
Sugar and sugary foods can be a tooth’s worst enemy. For good dental health cut down on how often a baby eats sugary foods and drink. Give them as part of a meal instead of between meals if you can. Having sugary foods and drinks too often puts the teeth at risk of tooth decay. This is especially important once the baby teeth start to appear (around 6 months).
The best way of caring for a baby’s teeth is to give food that helps a baby grow and develop. You can use the Food Pyramid as a guide – choose plenty of the foods from the bottom of the pyramid, and less of the foods at the top. You can see that sugary foods are at the top of the Pyramid.

Bottle Feeding

It is important never to give sweet drinks in the baby bottle. This can be harmful once a baby’s teeth start appearing. Try not to let the baby develop the habit of sleeping with a bottle at night or at nap time. Infants and toddlers should not be put to bed with a feeding bottle or dinky feeder. Baby’s bottle should be used for feeding – not as a pacifier.
A baby will be able to use a cup at 6 months, and they can be weaned off a bottle by 12 months. Give baby plenty of cooled boiled water to drink and about 1 pint of milk each day (breast or formulated milk up to one year and cows milk after that).


Some babies get sore gums when they are teething. Babies can get restless or irritable, and they might start sleeping or feeding badly. Sometimes this may lead to problems digesting food or to loose stools. Teething doesn't make a baby really sick, though, so any sick child should be seen by a doctor - don't pass it off as just 'teething'.
If baby's gums seem sore or baby seems cranky and dribbles a lot, there are some things that you can do to help.
Try giving baby something to chew on. There is a good selection of teething rings on the market - but make sure they are made of soft material and are big enough so that there is no danger of choking. Some parents/carers find that teething rings containing fluid which can be cooled in the fridge are best. Milk, cooled boiled water, or very diluted sugar-free fruit juices may help - sweet drinks do not. If baby wakes at night and is irritable, you can use a mild pain reliever - preferably sugar-free. Ask your doctor or public health nurse to recommend one. Avoid ointments which numb the gum unless your dentist recommends them.


Not all children need soothers or pacifiers. If you feel the baby needs a pacifier it is important to make sure it is of the correct design. An Orthodontic type one is the most suitable. Only use it when absolutely necessary and wean the baby off it as soon as possible. Otherwise it may have long term ill effects on the way a baby's teeth grow. Never dip the soother into sugary liquid (honey, jams or syrupy medicines) to encourage the child to use it.

Dental Injuries for children

When children are learning to walk they are especially likely to fall and injure their teeth or mouth. You should bring a child to see a dentist if they hurt their mouth and the bleeding doesn't stop, or if they damage a tooth, or if they fall and drive a tooth back up into their gum. Your dentist will be able to take an x-ray and decide if anything needs to be done. Very often, all that is needed after an injury is to keep a close eye on the child's teeth and gums for a while, but you should check with a dentist to make sure.
With any injury to your child's mouth, you should contact your dentist immediately. The dentist will want to examine the affected area and determine appropriate treatment.
If your child is in pain from a broken, cracked or chipped tooth, you should visit the dentist immediately. You may want to give an over-the-counter pain reliever to your child until his/her appointment. If possible, keep any part of the tooth that has broken off and take this with you to the dentist.
If a tooth is completely knocked out of the mouth by an injury, take the tooth to your dentist as soon as possible. Handle the tooth as little as possible — do not wipe or otherwise clean the tooth. Store the tooth in water or milk until you get to a dentist. It may be possible for the tooth to be placed back into your child's mouth.

When and how to brush your child's teeth

From 0-2 years old

• You can start to clean a baby's teeth as soon as the first tooth appears.

• As more teeth begin to appear, brush the child's teeth with a soft toothbrush and water.

• Do Not Use Toothpaste.

• It may be difficult at first but a baby will become used to this routine. Cleaning a baby's teeth is very important to help protect against tooth decay.

From 2-7 years old

• You can start to use toothpaste, but only use a small pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Pea sized toothpaste

• Supervise brushing twice a day, at bedtime and one other time during the day.

• Children under seven years are not able to brush their own teeth properly, they need help from an adult, the same way they need help shampooing their hair and tying their shoelaces.

• Never rinse after brushing, just spit

• Remember children should never eat or swallow toothpaste. Make sure a child never manages to eat toothpaste from the tube.

• It takes two to three minutes to brush teeth properly (about the length of a fun kids song)

How do I prevent cavities for my kids?

Teaching your child proper oral care at a young age is an investment in his or her health that will pay lifelong dividends. You can start by setting an example yourself. And anything that makes taking care of teeth fun, like brushing along with your child or letting them choose their own toothbrush, encourages proper oral care.

Here are helpful hints:

• Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste

• Floss daily to remove plaque from between your teeth and under the gum line, before it can harden into tartar. Once tartar has formed, it can only be removed by a professional cleaning

• Eat a well-balanced diet that limits starchy or sugary foods, which produce acids that can cause tooth decay

• Make sure that your children's drinking water

• Take your child to the dentist for regular checkups.

Children’s brushing techniques

You may want to supervise your children until they get the hang of these simple steps:

• Use a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste. Take care that your child does not swallow the toothpaste

• Using a soft-bristled toothbrush, brush the inside surface of each tooth first, where plaque may accumulate most. Brush gently back and forth

• Clean the outer surfaces of each tooth. Angle the brush along the outer gum line. Gently brush back and forth

• Brush the chewing surface of each tooth. Gently brush back and forth

• Use the tip of the brush to clean behind each front tooth, both top and bottom

Flossing timing for kids

Because flossing removes food particles and plaque between teeth that brushing misses, you should floss for your children beginning at age 4. By the time they reach age 8, most kids can begin flossing for themselves.

Dental Sealants for children

A dental sealant creates a highly-effective barrier against decay. Sealants are thin plastic coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of a child's permanent back teeth, where most cavities form. Applying a sealant is not painful and can be performed in one dental visit. Your dentist can tell you whether your child might benefit from a dental sealant.

Fluoride and the right amount

Fluoride is one of the best ways to help prevent against tooth decay. A naturally occurring mineral, fluoride combines with the tooth's enamel to strengthen it. In many municipal water supplies, the right amount of fluoride is added for proper tooth development. To find out whether your water contains fluoride, and how much, call your local water district. If your water supply does not contain any (or enough) fluoride, your pediatric dentist may suggest using fluoride drops or a mouth rinse in addition to a fluoride toothpaste.

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