Teeth are one of the most important parts of our body and we will need it for a very long time.
Experts would agree that care for Oral health should start from birth.
The earlier you start taking care of your child’s oral set, the less likely your child is going to have complication in the future. If you find it a struggle to care for it, remember that it would be worth the hassle. 10-20 years from now, your child is going to thank you for it.
The most common dental problem among children is tooth decay.
Tooth decay is prevalent among preschoolers because oral health was not a major worry for parents during the child’s infancy stage. Tooth decay is when sugar residue that was left on the teeth begins to turn into acid and eats away at the teeth causing the teeth to erode and decay. Overtime this will become dental caries which is holes in the teeth.
Dental caries may cause toothache, tooth sensitivity, bad breath, and brown or black spots on the teeth.
Note: Pregnant mothers can and should get their dentals checked regularly too.
When your baby is born, they already have a set of teeth waiting to sprout out of the gums.
These set of teeth are known as baby teeth or milk teeth (Gigi Susu). Your baby would have all its baby teeth in place by the age of 3 and baby teeth are important!
These temporary set of teeth will start to fall out by the time your child reach primary school to give way for adult teeth or permanent teeth to grow. However, just because something is not permanent doesn’t mean that we can care for it lightly.
Essentially, baby teeth are there to help your growing child to digest their food properly. Teeth can also affect your child’s speech ability. Hence why During this developmental stage, it is important to keep the milk teeth healthy.
Additionally, Decaying baby teeth may also infect the permanent ones below it because tooth decay is an infectious disease. Improper care of baby teeth may also reflect on how the adult teeth grows. For example, crooked teeth may be cause because the teeth didn’t grow at the right time.
See How The Teeth Growth!
You can start observing for signs of teeth growth when your baby reaches 6 months old.
- The first row of teeth to grow would usually be the four front teeth (two in the upper jaw and another two in the lower jaw). It may not grow all at once but these four would always be the first to pop out of the gums.
- Next the lateral incisors will grow on each side of the front teeth for both upper and lower jaw. This should happen by the time your baby is at 15 months old or 1 year and 3 months.
- Your baby’s first molars would grow making a total of 12 teeth when your baby reached 19 months old. The first set of molars would leave a space beside the lateral incisors for the canine teeth.
- At 23 months, your baby would have its canine teeth out and by the aged of 3, your baby would have the rest of its molars grown. Altogether there will be a total of 20 teeth in your baby’s mouth.
Do not wait till your baby’s teeth is out for you to start caring for it.
Gum’s health are equally as important.
For newborns, you may start with gently wiping the gums with clean wet cloth after every feeding to get rid of any milk residue.
If you start to observe that your baby’s gums are becoming more red and swollen including an increase of saliva flow, it may be sign that teeth are coming.
You can give your baby teething ring to ease your baby. It will work better if you chill the teething ring beforehand as the cold help to soothe the gums.
Once you can see the first teeth, you can start smearing it with fluoride toothpaste, just a teeny weeny bit (about the size of a grain of rice) but wiping with clean wet cloth would suffice.
Fluoride can help prevent tooth decay. Afterwards, when there are more teeth, you can start using soft bristled toothbrush without toothpaste to gently brush your baby’s teeth.
What sort of toothpaste should you look for?
The best toothpaste for your children is the one that contains 1000 ppm of fluoride!
Fluoride is a type of mineral that can be found naturally in earth and water. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making your teeth enamel stronger to fight against the attack of the sugar-turned-acid.
Doctors also recommend fluoride toothpaste for younger children as their teeth are just developed. It can help the fluoride to fused with the enamel instead of just coating it, thus making the bond stronger!
For children under 6 years old, a pea-sized amount of toothpaste with every brushing is enough.
Doctors do recommend toothpastes that contain no sugar or sweetener as it can also cause tooth decay but choosing toothpaste that has kid-friendly flavours may help when you first introduce your child to toothpaste. So, it’s your call mommy and daddy!
Other ingredients that you find in a toothpaste and what they do:
- Calcium carbonate, dehydrated silica gels, hydrated aluminium oxides, magnesium carbonate, phosphate salts, silicates aids in getting rid of surface stains and residues.
- Glycerol, propylene, glycol, sorbitol holds the water in the toothpaste.
- Mineral colloids, natural gums, seaweed colloids, synthetic cellulose are agents that help to bind the toothpaste ingredients together.
- Detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium N-Lauryl, sarcosinate creates foam and bubbles you see when you brush your teeth.
Important things to note for oral care:
1. Don’t share utensils with your child. That includes tasting the milk temperature with your mouth. This is because you may infect your child with cavities thanks to a tea mission of bacteria from your mouth to theirs.
2. Do not leave your baby with a bottle in the mouth or for them to sleep with the bottle still in their mouth. Apart from the risk of chocking, you may also endanger your child’s teeth for tooth decay.
First Trip To The Dentist!
By 6 months or when the first teeth start to show up, you can start scheduling appointments with the dentist for your child. A lot of parents especially in Malaysia have a primitive view that you only visit the dentist if you are experiencing dental pain similar how you would see a doctor when you are sick but that is actually a bad practice.
A trip to your dentist should be periodical or least twice a year. Regular checkups with your dental care provider can help prevent unwanted problems on yours or your child’s teeth.
You can also use this time to discuss with the dentist on how to care and plan for your child’s teeth so that it develops healthily.
Why do your child need to go to the dentist at such young age?
If you wondering why your little toddler has to go dental appointments, wonder no more!
Dental visits should start as early as 1 years old as recommended by many health organizations around the world.
Why 1 year old? Well, this is because by this age, your child would probably have their first set of baby teeth in place. Going to the dentist sooner rather than later aids in early prevention and identification of any oral diseases.
Once these diseases becomes obvious or when your child start feeling pain in their mouth, it is already a sign that the disease has reached a level of severity.
Early introduction to the dentist can help build positive relationship and dental habits. Making your child more trusting of dentist rather than fear.
Try fixing an appointment in the morning where your child is fresh and full of energy. It makes them more open when at the dentist.
Do you know that tooth decay can start really young?
It usually start with white or brown spots on your baby’s teeth. These spots are hard to notice and you would need expert. Tooth decay happens when the teeth is expose to sugary content for a long period of time. Sugar become the source of energy for the bacteria that causes tooth decay to thrive on.
Protect your child from tooth decay by doing this!
1. Limit Sugar Intake
The main culprit for tooth decay is sugar! Not only for oral health but for overall health too, as parents, you need to make sure that you supervise your child’s sugar intake. Cut down on the candies and confectionaries. Sugar is already abundant in our daily diet that we don’t really need to take extra.
2. Wean off the bottle early
Getting your child off the bottle and into using regular cups should start as early as 6 months. As your child is slowly introduce to solid food, they should rely less and less on their milk bottles and eventually sippy cups too.
3. Brushing teeth before bed
Brushing your teeth should be the last thing your child did before you tucked them in their beds. Doing this helps to get rid of all the food leftovers in the mouth so that it was not left too long when they are sleeping.
4. Slow down on the juice
Freshly made fruit juice may be healthy for you but believe it or not they have sugars too. The natural sugars in the fruit juices can also cause tooth decay. It is okay to give your child fruit juice but do take good care not to let them chug on it all day long. If you’re planning on letting them hold on to the bottle all day, fill the bottle with half juice and half water to dilute it a bit.
Baby Teeth Care:
6 to 12 months
- When your baby is 6 to 12 months old, you may start weaning them off the bottle or sippy cups.
12 to 18 months
- Start training them to use regular cups once they have reached 12 months old.
- Bottles and sippy cups may cause milk to accumulate between the teeth.
- You can start introducing your child to the toothbrush.
- They may begin to brush their teeth with water only.
18 month to 3 years old.
- You may begin to introduce small amount of toothpaste when your child is 1 years old.
- Keep a look out for white or brown spots which can be indicators of early stage tooth decay.
This is also the best time for you to introduce good oral habits to your child. Start them young so they get used to it as they get older.
As the local phrase goes: