I hope everyone was able to survive the holidays and New Years. Being that Baby New Years showed up just a few days ago it seems only fitting now is the time I try and address all the questions I have received regarding dentistry and kids. I will start with the basics and branch out from there but keep it as basic and concise as possible.
First of all kids dentition consists of 20 teeth, compared to the adult dentition of 32 teeth. The difference in the 12 teeth is that the childs dentition doesn’t have the 2 premolars on either side, both top and bottom (8 total) and doesn’t have wisdom teeth. I mention this because it may allow you to better follow how teeth fall out and which teeth come in to take their place.
Here is a chart outlining when teeth come in and when they fall out.
There are a few basic rules when it comes to the eruption of primary teeth. Usually, but not always, the front teeth come in before the back teeth. Also, the top teeth erupt before the bottom with the exception of the two bottom front teeth. Parents often ask if their child will need braces. The answer is usually yes, but we won’t know for sure until all the adult teeth have erupted. As you can see in the picture above, there are generally spaces between baby teeth known as primary spaces. Much to the parents dismay, these spaces don’t guarantee that their child’s permanent teeth won’t be crowed and possibly need braces.
So, why do we even have baby teeth? They are just for practice until we get adult teeth right?
Wait, are you serious? No, they aren’t for practice! I have actually had parents say this to me. Primary teeth serve a variety of purposes and it is very important to take good care of them. If your child has any type of infection or pain it could drastically affect their diet and the last thing we need is an excuse for an even pickier eater. Most people assume that if a baby tooth develops a cavity it should be pulled because an adult tooth will just take its place anyway. This is not the solution. The main purpose of primary teeth is to maintain space for permanent teeth. If you start to pull baby teeth, the adult teeth can erupt into the wrong spots. This causes a variety of problems in the adult dentition, from overcrowding or impaction, sometimes necessitating the need for surgery for correction.
What is the best way to prevent cavities in primary teeth? Make sure the child brushes their teeth of course!
Why? If you have kids, you know this is probably what you will get.
Make sure YOU brush your child’s teeth. Until a child can correctly tie their own shoes, assume anything they are doing with a toothbrush is not productive. Children simply haven’t developed the motor skills or dexterity to effectively brush their own teeth. I have met many adults that still can’t effectively brush their teeth so it is a little much to ask young children to brush well. Only once they are able to tie their own shoes should you allow them to brush themselves once a day while you brush the other time. Not until the age of eight to ten should you allow them to brush twice a day by themselves.
Another way to prevent cavities is by not letting your child continuously eat sticky, sugary foods throughout the day. I know I am the only parent to ever give my child fruit snacks to get them to stop crying for the 10 minute car ride home, so I’m sure this doesn’t apply to anyone else. Instead try to feed them healthier foods (I said try) or at least limit the amount of sugary food or drinks (even fruit juice). It’s not the quantity, but the frequency of sugar that can cause cavities. Use your best judgment, however be warned that one of the biggest causes of kids cavities is raisins because they stick to teeth for an hour or more and are filled with sugar.
One final thought that could be an entire post itself: don’t ever put your child to bed with a bottle of milk or juice. This allows sugar to sit on their teeth for a long time, night after night, causing what is known as Baby Bottle tooth decay. This can lead to all of the baby teeth needing to be extracted. Not all babies will sleep soundly all the time, but for the first year a pacifier is strongly recommended in lieu of a baby bottle.
Speaking of babies and sleeping, I apologize for the delay since my last blog post, but I have been spending a lot of time getting my two newest additions to fall asleep.