DR. DESMOND ONG
TOWNSVILLE ORTHODONTIC SPECIALISTS
Why losing them early can be a crying shame!
The ‘Teething’ Process
Most parents will not look back fondly at their baby’s ‘teething’ process. The emergence of the first baby teeth usually occurs between six and 12 months after birth, heralding another stretch of sleepless nights and tears for the family!
Baby teeth are commonly known as ‘deciduous teeth’, ‘milk teeth’ and ‘primary teeth’. They start developing around five weeks into the pregnancy! At birth, 20 primary teeth are present (10 in the upper jaw, 10 in the lower jaw) and hidden underneath the gums. By the age of three, most toddlers have their full set of 20 primary teeth.
Unfortunately, there is an assumption that baby teeth are not as important to look after compared to adult (permanent) teeth, as baby teeth eventually fall out anyway.
In fact, baby teeth are extremely important to maintain. They are required for chewing, speech and to maintain appropriate space for the future adult teeth to erupt into good positions. If a baby tooth is prematurely lost or removed, future crowding of the permanent teeth may develop. In general, the earlier the baby tooth is lost, the greater the orthodontic problem.
Decayed baby teeth will generally require professional dental treatment. Without treatment, decayed baby teeth can lead to pain, abscesses and problems with the adjacent teeth. Severe decay in baby teeth can affect eating and sleep, which can in turn affect a child’s growth.
Thankfully, the risk of developing dental decay can be largely prevented through good oral hygiene habits, a healthy diet and avoiding sugary drinks and treats wherever possible.
Caring for Baby Teeth
• From birth: Gently wipe your baby’s mouth and gums with a soft wet cloth.
• 6 months: Brush any teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush and plain water.
• 12–18 months: Use a pea-sized amount of low fluoride children’s toothpaste to the toothbrush.
• 2 years: Begin flossing between any teeth that touch, especially if food is stuck.
• 4–5 years: Show your child how to brush. Please supervise! See your family dentist for a check-up.
• 6 years: Start teaching your child to floss. Front baby teeth may become loose.
• 8 years: Your child may be able to brush and floss unsupervised.
• 10 years: Your child may start using adult toothpaste.
• 11–13 years: Last remaining baby teeth generally exfoliate.
Developing Orthodontic Problems
Baby teeth act as space maintainers for the future adult teeth. Losing a baby tooth too early may allow the adjacent teeth to drift into the empty space, reducing the space needed for adult tooth to erupt into. Taking good care of baby teeth is vital to prevent crowding in the adult teeth.
If a baby tooth is lost due to trauma or decay, it is important that you see a specialist Orthodontist. Your Orthodontist will determine whether any treatment is required, or whether close monitoring of the situation is appropriate. The decision will depend upon the age of the child, the developmental stage and position of the permanent teeth and the overall facial growth pattern. Many problems, such as undesirable drifting and impaction of teeth can be prevented or alleviated with timely diagnosis and good management.
The development of a child’s mouth is a fascinating and dynamic process. A specialist Orthodontist has the training, experience and expert knowledge to accurately determine what is normal, what is not, and everything in-between. When you see a specialist Orthodontist you can be confident that your child is in the best hands.