Baby teeth, also known as the deciduous dentition, can erupt as early as the age of 4 months, but typically between 6-12 months of age, and are often in our mouth until 12-13 years old. Although it may seem like a short time compared to the overall lifespan, 13 years is a long time to maintain a tooth or to have a toothache if not looked after well!
Children use their baby teeth to help them:
- Form words and speech development easily
- Gain the correct nutrition to grow and develop cognitive skills
- Keep space for their adult teeth and allow their face to grow correctly
- Have confidence talking and smiling
- Set good habits for adulthood
These teeth are placeholders for the adult dentition, they ensure the correct amount of space is kept for the adult tooth to erupt in the right spot. In the event a baby tooth is lost early (before the adult tooth is ready to erupt), the teeth behind can drift forward and leave no room for the adult tooth to come through, causing crowding and pain in the mouth, as well as in the pocket! Crowding often requires treatment with orthodontics, either braces or clear aligners (see our blog post on clear aligners!) and can be a lengthy and costly procedure which can sometimes be prevented from looking after the deciduous dentition well.
Looking after the baby teeth entails good brushing and diet habits right from eruption, as well as having a dental practitioner check and perform hygiene and preventative procedures regularly from the age of 2 years old to ensure they stay in good shape.
Brushing when they first erupt might just entail using a wet washcloth to wipe the babies teeth and gums after milk or foods, and allowing them to chew on the toothbrush to get used to it. “Stages” toothpaste with age appropriate guidelines should be used to ensure the correct amount of fluoride is used, especially before 7 years old when spitting out is not always perfected. YouTube videos and apps are a lot of fun for toddlers and children over 1 to watch and learn the importance of brushing and make it fun!
Good diet ensures there is low levels of refined carbohydrates, sticky foods or sugary beverages in the diet, particularly during snacks in between meals. This includes white bread, biscuits and oreos that get stuck in grooves and juice. Snacks in between meals should be healthy and low in sugar and acidity if possible, and water should be paired with every meal and used to rinse and drink after anything acidic like pineapple, orange or lemon.
Just remember, from the age of 5-6 years old, your child now has adult teeth in the mouth that will be in there possibly until 100 years old! If there is decay on a baby tooth, even if its due to come out soon, decay should be sorted as soon as possible so that food isnt trapped in between the cavity and the adult tooth, which would result in decay on the adult tooth as well. Deep decay/ infection in baby teeth can also cause issues to the enamel of the adult tooth under the surface, so its always important to get a child’s teeth examined and if required, treated as soon as possible. that’s why we recommend 2x yearly visits.
If you struggle with diet or brushing compliance with your child or there is learning, behaviour or disability barriers that make them higher risk of decay, we welcome them in to get check ups 3-4 times a year to put your mind at ease when it can be challenging at home.