Expert Advice

Baby teeth: 5 expert tips for caring for little chompers

They might be little, but they're still important!

By Rebel Wylie
Baby teeth sure are cute.
But if you think the only problems they can cause are the sleepless nights when they're coming through, you are mistaken.
Dr Giulia D'Anna says parents can save a lot of problems later on by doing the right thing early. Image: Supplied.
Those first little chompers are not as strong as permanent teeth and are at a higher risk of developing tooth decay (cavities). In baby teeth, small cavities can become large cavities in a short period of time.
Untreated cavities can lead to your child having a lot of pain and can possibly progress into infection. If the infection is not taken care of, it can affect the permanent teeth that are developing behind the infected tooth.
Baby teeth are also important for your child to chew and they also act as a guide for the eruption of permanent teeth. Early loss of baby teeth creates an open space, allowing other teeth to move into that place, resulting in crowding of permanent teeth in the future
Dr Giulia D'Anna, dentist and founder of iDental as come across a lot of problems that could of been avoided by following simple tips or taking action. She shares her tips for caring for your baby's teeth below...

Dr Giulia D'Anna's tips for caring for baby teeth

1. Don't panic!
Your child's baby teeth will start to appear, often with the central bottom teeth first, anywhere between 4 months and 10 months. Like every milestone, the age that a child gets their first tooth can vary widely, and there is no need to panic if every other child already seems to have teeth and your child does not quite yet.
Accept this as a positive delay, as this gives the child a delayed time before they need to look after their teeth or can develop decay.
As the teeth start to get wobbly and are lost, often parents are concerned that the baby tooth is still present whilst the adult tooth has started to pop through the gum. This is quite common and the best course of action is to see your dentist for assessment.
The most common advice I give out is that the baby tooth needs lots of wobbling to encourage its loss. And if the baby tooth persists on being present for longer than three months after the adult tooth first shows up, a dentist will need to help out.
2. Dodge sugar
Children can get decay and this is most commonly associated with diet related issues. Eating lots of sugar without good brushing is a consideration.
Additionally drinking sugary drinks is also best avoided. The best drinks for kids are milk and water. Seems simple and it really is.
Avoiding sticky sugar is also a really good tip. The lunch box snack of "roll-ups", sultanas or lollies are best avoided. These kids of sugars stick to the teeth for a prolonged period of time, so that the teeth develop decay much more easily.
The use of Tooth mousse can help to stabilise decay levels and strengthen enamel, and the great thing about this product is that it was developed at the University of Melbourne, right here in Australia.
WATCH: An expert answers your questions on dental health. Continues after video ...
3. Don't let them eat the toothpaste!
Only use toothpaste when your child can reliably spit out. Toothpaste contains fluoride and this is a great thing. However there are a number of concerns that can develop if your child is swallowing excess amounts of toothpaste.
Fluoride in the water supply usually sits at a really low concentration of 1 part per million. Adult toothpaste sits at around 1000 parts per million, and child toothpaste has around 200-300 parts per million. Fluoride has been one of the single most beneficial health initiatives in the world, preventing tooth loss significantly since its introduction.
However, when your child is growing, fluoride ingestion can cause discolouration of the permanent teeth. This is called Dental Fluorosis. Dental fluorosis can affect the appearance of teeth, most commonly appearing as white lines/areas on tooth surfaces. It is caused by a high intake of fluoride from one or more sources during the time when teeth are developing.
Almost all dental fluorosis in Australia, however, is mild or very mild, does not affect the function of the teeth, and is not of aesthetic concern to those who have it.
4. Make friends with the dentist
Get your child's teeth checked by the dentist early. This is beneficial in a few ways.
First of all, the child will see the dental experience as a positive one as little is usually done in the first few visits aside from a general check of the teeth, some teeth counting games and a fun ride in the chair.
At iDental, we usually like to play games and give our prizes for having a dental check, which all reinforces this positive behaviour.
The second benefit of an early check is to detect developmental problems like tongue or lip tie, which can impair speech, and obviously to screen for decay or potential other dental concerns.
Getting your child's teeth checked by the dentist early is beneficial in a few ways. Image: Getty.
5. Fix the problems early
When there is decay, get this fixed.
Primary or baby teeth seem like a trial run, and they kind of are. But primary teeth are important for function and speech. Without front teeth, your child will struggle with a lisp which will have an impact on reading and spelling. Without back teeth, nutrition can be a problem.
Additionally with decay, infections can develop easily as the teeth are smaller and less resistant to decay progression.
Finally one of the most important reasons to keep baby teeth in position is that they maintain the space we need for the new secondary or permanent teeth to come through in the correct position.
When a tooth is lost too early, the spaces normally needed by the permanent teeth close, as the teeth either side of the space drift into this position. This can lead to unnecessary orthodontic problems later on, when the teeth are much more crowded than they might have been by fixing and saving the baby tooth in the first place.

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