Dental care is important at all ages, including the pre-school years.
One still hears myths to the effect that dental care for pre-schoolers is only necessary in emergencies and that their teeth “take care of themselves”. That is simply wrong and might cause serious harm to your child’s teeth.
The development of milk teeth
Most children will have developed all their milk teeth by around the age of 3 years. There are usually 20 of them but sometimes you might see one extra or less.
Don’t worry if your child is a little later or earlier in getting their full set because children are individuals and don’t conform to set rules and timetables for their development.
From the moment they develop their first tooth or two, you should be thinking about their dental hygiene and overall dental care.
Around the age of 6-7, you should start to see them losing their baby teeth and their replacement by adult versions.
When to start
Most dental professionals advise that home care of teeth should start as soon as a child’s first teeth start to appear.
It’s probably a good idea to consult your dentist for a quick inspection once that happens. They will also give you advice on cleaning techniques and toddler-friendly toothpastes (advice may vary slightly from one dentist to another).
Cleaning frequencies will also be advised by your dentist and again, there may be some very slight differences of opinion there between dentists. Even so, they are likely to suggest this is something that you do fairly regularly, albeit very gently.
In the earlier years, it’s probably a good idea to visit your dentist for a routine inspection every 6-12 months.
It’s always a good idea to protect your child’s teeth from decay by:
- avoiding too many sweeties and sugary treats;
- don’t allow your child to consume lots of fizzy drinks – most contain very high levels of sugar;
- highly acidic drinks, like pure orange or other fruit juices, may corrode the enamel of teeth. Limit them to within guidelines;
- some foodstuffs may also weaken milk teeth. That includes things like very sticky toffees and things like them.
As a general rule, if something is known to be an issue for adult tooth health then it will certainly be so for children’s teeth too.
Your dentist may discover evidence of other potential teeth health issues or problems that might not be necessarily a health issue but which could be a cosmetic one in future.
Parents often ask about “braces” (orthodontic appliances) for younger children. In most circumstances, your dentist probably won’t recommend such until all your child’s milk teeth have gone – usually sometime around 10 years of age.
There may be some conditions where your dentist might recommend early corrective treatment via appliance or possibly, though rarely, surgery.
Old wives’ tales
There remain plenty of such around! A few of the more obvious ones:
- most dentists agree there is little foundation in the old story that occasional thumb-sucking in earlier childhood will inevitably result in protruding teeth in adult life. However, where thumb-sucking becomes continual and obsessive over long periods, there may be an issue with deformations. Ask your dentist for advice;
- eating lots of any foodstuff is unlikely to ‘cure’ cavities, though a sensible and healthy diet is a sound idea;
- brushing regularly means that the teeth will self-repair any cavities;
- using products to whiten children’s teeth improves their dental health (depending upon the products used, this one can be positively harmful).
Don’t believe them – trust your dentist instead.