5 minute read
Seeing your child pass their development milestones is an amazing experience, and their teeth involve some of the biggest changes of all. Having some idea of what to expect and when will give you an idea of whether your child’s mouth is developing normally or if you should be concerned.
Good habits start early in life, and when you make good oral hygiene part of your child’s routine from the beginning, you can improve their chance of looking forward to a lifetime of good oral health. From their first tooth to their first dental visit, here are the most important milestones to follow.
Most babies get their first tooth from 6 to 10 months, though this milestone can also come earlier or later. Children should have 20 primary teeth in total (also called milk teeth or baby teeth). All of these teeth are already formed at birth, but hidden inside the gums until they’re ready to come through (erupt).
Teeth normally erupt in groups, though one tooth may appear a few days or weeks ahead of the others. The average timeline for eruption is:
- 6 to 10 months – the two bottom front teeth (central incisors)
- 8 to 13 months – the two upper front teeth (central incisors)
- 8 to 16 months – the four lateral incisors on either side of the central incisors
- 13 to 19 months – the first four chewing teeth (first molars)
- 16 to 23 months – the four canine or ‘eye’ teeth between the incisors and molars
- 25 to 33 months – the four back teeth (second molars)
Most children have all of their primary teeth by their third year, but some take longer. Some babies take 12 to 18 months to start teething, but you should talk to a paediatric dentist if you’re concerned about them missing their milestones.
From around the age of 6 years, the teething process starts again as kids lose their baby teeth and their permanent adult teeth emerge to replace them. Girls generally start to get their permanent teeth earlier than boys of the same age.
As with primary teeth, the timeline for secondary teeth is only a general guide, and many children lose their teeth earlier or later. The order in which the teeth appear is slightly different than for primary teeth:
- 6 to 7 years – first molars
- 6 to 8 years – central incisors
- 7 to 8 years – lateral incisors
- 9 to 13 years – canine teeth and premolars
- 11 to 13 years – second molars
Later on, most people grow their third molars (wisdom teeth) in their late teens to early 20s. There are usually four wisdom teeth, but not everyone gets them. As these teeth are less necessary, dentists may recommend wisdom tooth removal if a tooth is stuck (impacted) in the gum or causes problems such as teeth crowding.
Helping your child with teething
Teething can be an uncomfortable time for children and their parents, with pain and sleep disturbances being common. The teething period lasts for about 8 days per tooth, starting around 4 days before the tooth fully erupts and taking a few more days to go away.
You can help your baby or young child to deal with the pain and discomfort of teething by massaging the eruption site softly using a clean finger or cloth and letting them bite on a teething ring or rusk (if they’re already eating solid food). These can be chilled, which helps to relieve some pain. It’s not recommended to use amber teething necklaces or gels, as these can be safety hazards.
For older children getting their secondary teeth, placing a cold compress or ice-pack against their cheek could help to relieve the discomfort of teething. Alternatively, you can talk to your child’s dentist for advice about pain relief medication.
Losing teeth can be an upsetting or confusing time for some children. If your child seems distressed about a tooth feeling wobbly and coming out, reassure them that a new tooth will be along to replace it soon. Otherwise, rely on the tried and tested story of the tooth fairy if you think the promise of a reward could help them to deal with their tooth loss.
Caring for your child’s teeth
Some parents feel that baby teeth don’t need as much care as adult teeth, since they’re going to be lost in a few years anyway, but these early teeth are vital for their development. If a baby tooth is lost prematurely to tooth decay, this can cause the surrounding teeth to drift, causing problems for the adult teeth growing beneath. Missing teeth may also affect a child’s ability to eat and speak.
Baby teeth are more vulnerable to tooth decay and cavities than permanent teeth, as the enamel layer is much thinner. The good news is that tooth decay can usually be prevented when you help your child to follow good oral hygiene. This should include:
Children’s teeth should be brushed twice a day using a soft bristled toothbrush appropriate for their size. Young children will need help to brush until they have the dexterity to use a toothbrush correctly.
- From birth – even before your baby has any teeth, you can help to keep their mouth healthy by gently wiping their gums with a clean finger or cloth
- 6 months – when your child gets their first teeth, brush using a toothbrush and plain water only
- 18 months – brush using a pea-sized amount of low-fluoride children’s toothpaste, encouraging your child to spit out the toothpaste to prevent fluorosis
- 4 to 5 years – children may be ready to start brushing their own teeth, but they still require supervision
- 6 to 7 years – your child may be ready to switch to adult toothpaste, still using a pea-sized amount and not swallowing
- 8 years – your child may be ready to brush their own teeth without supervision
Your child’s dentist can tell you whether they’re brushing correctly and demonstrate the proper brushing technique during their regular check-ups. Some children find an electric toothbrush easier to use than a manual toothbrush. These can also feature lights and sounds to make tooth brushing more appealing, or timers to encourage kids to brush for the recommended 2 minutes.
You should start to clean between your child’s teeth as soon as the teeth start to touch together – usually around 2 and a half years.
Flossing is important for kids as well as adults. If your child doesn’t floss, leftover food may remain on parts of their teeth and gums that a toothbrush can’t reach. This can lead to bacteria and plaque accumulating and increase their risk of tooth decay and cavities.
Children’s floss is available in different colours and flavours to appeal to little flossers. If your child doesn’t like the feeling of floss, their dentist may recommend other options such as an interdental brush or water flosser.
Food and drink
A healthy, nutritious diet is important for children’s dental development as well as their overall health. Encouraging kids to eat fresh fruit and vegetables from a young age will provide vitamins and other nutrients to help strengthen their teeth, while milk, cheese and other dairy products provide valuable calcium for building and repairing tooth enamel.
Sugar contributes to the energy that growing kids need, but most Australian kids have too much sugar, according to national recommended daily limits and the World Health Organization (WHO). Cutting down on sugar at home and in school lunchboxes helps children to reduce the risk of tooth decay.
Some of the worst offenders for tooth decay are soft drinks, fruit juices and cordials, which are high in sugar and acids that can wear down tooth enamel. Swapping these drinks for water will help your child to get the hydration they need without the tooth damage – and if your local tap water is fluoridated, drinking will even help to protect their teeth.
Visiting the dentist
Regular check-ups with a dentist are important at all ages, but they can be especially helpful for young children whose teeth are changing rapidly and more prone to decay. When a child has regular dental appointments, their dentists may be able to spot and treat problems before they cause pain or serious damage.
It’s recommended that children see a dentist around the time of their first birthday or within 6 months of getting their first tooth. Their dentist will recommend how often they should visit based on their individual oral health needs.
During their check-up, your child’s dentist will help them to feel comfortable and relaxed while inspecting their mouth for possible signs of decay. Dental x-rays are not generally used for young children unless their dentist needs a closer look to diagnose a problem or plan their treatment.
If the dentist finds signs of decay or a developmental problem, they may recommend a treatment such as a filling or orthodontics for older children. They may also discuss preventive treatments such as fissure sealants or a custom mouthguard to help kids avoid decay and serious dental injuries.
See a children’s dentist in Armadale
If you want more advice about how to care for your child’s teeth, or it’s time for their check-up, get in touch with our friendly team at Kelmscott Dental. Our family dentists in Perth are highly trained and experienced in working with children of all ages and we take extra care to create a positive environment with the aim of encouraging a lifetime of good oral health care.
Call us today on (08) 9495 7999 to schedule an appointment at Kelmscott Dental or contact us.
- Better Health Channel. Dental checks for young children [Online] 2019 [Accessed September 2020] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/dental-checks-for-young-children
- Better Health Channel. Teeth development in children [Online] 2018 [Accessed September 2020] Available from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/teeth-development-in-children
- Healthdirect. How your baby’s teeth develop [Online] 2017 [Accessed September 2020] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/how-your-babys-teeth-develop
Is my child a mouth breather?
5 minute read
Breathing through the mouth rather than the nose can lead to a number of problems if it’s not corrected, from poor oral health to speech problems, sleep disorders and facial appearance.
If your child is a mouth breather, your dentist may be able to recommend appropriate treatments to lower the risks of associated problems developing, or they may refer you to a specialist.
Read this guide to find out why mouth breathing can be harmful, what can cause it and what the treatment options are.
What are the signs of mouth breathing?
Normal breathing outside of energetic physical activity should be through the nose. If a child’s mouth rests in an open position, this doesn’t always indicate mouth breathing. Sleeping with their mouth open is a good indication of mouth breathing, so if you think you’re child may be a mouth breather, you should get a professional diagnosis by a doctor or dentist.
Children who breathe through their mouths often show signs of related problems, especially if this is disturbing their sleep. They may:
- snore loudly or grind their teeth during sleep
- feel tired during the day
- have problems with behaviour or concentration in school
- wet the bed after 6 years of age
If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, or anything else that concerns you, make an appointment to see a dentist or other health professional to schedule an assessment and discuss possible treatments.
Why is mouth breathing a problem?
Breathing through the nose is important for health. Air that passes through the nasal passages is filtered to remove some toxins. It enters the lungs at the optimal pressure to extract oxygen and release nitric oxide, which helps with circulation.
If you breathe through your mouth, fewer toxins are being filtered and circulation can be impaired, which reduces the transfer of oxygen around the body. These and other consequences can impact on a child’s health and wellbeing in many areas, including:
Oral health problems
Mouth breathing dries out the mouth. This can reduce saliva, which means bacteria and leftover food can spend longer on the teeth, increasing the risk of developing problems such as tooth decay and gingivitis (gum disease).
General health problems
Breathing though the mouth can affect other parts of the body in many different ways, from headaches to digestion problems.
- Mouth breathing is linked to high blood pressure (hypertension) and poor circulation, which increase the risk of heart problems.
- Air breathed through the mouth can also contain more toxins and allergens, which can make existing conditions such as asthma and allergies worse.
- Other problems linked with mouth breathing, such as poor oral health and sleep disorders, can also increase overall health risks.
Regular mouth breathing in childhood can affect the development of the jaws, often resulting in a high and narrow palate. This can lead to crowding, when there isn’t enough space for all the teeth. This pressure can cause teeth to protrude or become crooked.
Mouth breathing that lasts into adolescence can also affect the time and success of a braces treatment, making a relapse more likely if the problem isn’t resolved.
Children whose mouth breathing isn’t treated early may develop a long, narrow face with a small lower jaw and chin. This happens because of the way the tongue rests in the mouth to help keep the airway open.
This can usually be avoided if mouth breathing is corrected before the age of 7, but orthodontic treatment may also be effective at guiding the jaws into a more natural position while the jaws are still growing.
The forward thrusting of the tongue caused by mouth breathing can affect children’s speech, typically by developing a lisp. This may be corrected if mouth breathing is treated and the tongue can be encouraged to rest on the palate.
Mouth breathing can also contribute to snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), which can disturb children’s sleep and prevent them from feeling fully rested during the day.
As well as causing tiredness and fatigue, sleep disturbances can also impair concentration and memory and affect behaviour, personality and mood. This can affect children’s academic and social development and has been known to lead to misdiagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
What causes mouth breathing?
It’s not always clear why a child is breathing through their mouth, and there can sometimes be several causes overlapping. The most common reasons are:
- allergies or asthma
- large adenoids or tonsils
- chronic colds or respiratory infections (usually temporary)
- physical obstructions in the nasal passages, such as a deviated septum
- thumb or finger sucking causing tongue thrusting
- tongue tie, where the tongue is attached to the floor of the mouth
In some cases, there may be no obvious cause of mouth breathing, as it can just be a habit the child picked up and wasn’t trained out of.
Finding out what’s stopping your child from breathing through their nose is the first step to helping them overcome it and lowering the associated risks.
How is mouth breathing treated?
If you’re noticing symptoms associated with mouth breathing, you should make an appointment with their paediatric dentist or your doctor, who may be able to refer you to another health professional such as an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. They can diagnose the issue and tell you what appropriate steps can be taken.
It’s also important to keep up with your child’s regular dental check-ups, as their dentist may be able to spot possible signs of mouth breathing or related problems before they become obvious and when treatment may be easier.
Treatment for mouth breathing is based on what’s causing it. For some children, treatment may involve a combination of approaches with different specialists and home care. Find out about some of these treatment options below.
Mouth breathing can become a bad habit, even if the original cause is resolved. Like other bad habits, it can usually be unlearned, with guidance from an expert such as an ENT or respiratory specialist.
As well as learning to breathe through the nose rather than the mouth, mouth breathing children may also have to adjust to a new tongue posture. Retraining the oral muscles isa process that can be achieved with patience and understanding.
Managing allergies, infections and thumb sucking
If a child’s nose is blocked due to allergies, asthma, infections or other health conditions, managing these conditions could help to clear the nasal passages and allow them to breathe through their nose more easily.
Training them out of thumb and finger sucking could help with breathing and prevent orthodontic issues such as crooked teeth. This usually needs to be combined with tongue exercises and breath retraining to prevent them from slipping back into the habit.
If mouth breathing has caused the jaws to develop abnormally or teeth to become crowded, this may be remedied by orthodontic treatment. This involves fitting braces or other oral appliances that apply force to the teeth or jaws to guide their movement.
Orthodontics has the highest chance of success for children and young teenagers whose jaws are still developing and more easily guided. It can also be effective for many older teens and adults.
Depending on your child’s needs, orthodontics may be used:
- to expand the upper jaw, helping the tongue to rest on the palate and correcting crowding
- to move the lower jaw forward, expanding the airway and restoring a normal facial profile
Orthodontic appliances may be fixed or removable and both require compliance from the child and support from their parent and dentist
After the initial treatment, a retainer must be worn to help the teeth and jaws hold their new position. The child should also have transitioned to nose breathing or completed other required treatments to avoid a relapse.
If nose breathing is prevented by a physical obstruction such as enlarged tonsils or adenoids, a deviated septum or a tongue tie, surgery may be the only way to resolve this problem and help clear the airway. This may be performed by an ENT specialist or other surgeon.
If mouth breathing has caused the jaws to grow abnormally and orthodontics is unlikely to be effective, jaw surgery may be recommended to help bring a lower jaw forward.
Surgery normally needs to be combined with breath retraining and tongue exercises to help children learn the new way of breathing.
Talk to a children’s dentist in Armadale
If you think your child is a mouth breather and you want to know what to do, our dentists at Kelmscott Dental can help.
We can examine their mouth and jaws to look for any physical signs that could be causing a breathing disorder and we’ll discuss orthodontic treatments or other options so you can decide what’s best for your child. We also work closely with other health professionals if other therapeutic care is needed.
Call (08) 9495 7999 to talk to our friendly team today or book online for an appointment at our dental clinic in Kelmscott. We welcome patients of all ages from all nearby Perth suburbs.
Clever ways to substitute sugar
Carbohydrates such as fruit, vegetables, grains and dairy all contain naturally-occurring sugar. Sugar that naturally occurs in foods is slowly digested by the body, and releases a steady supply of energy.
Although, added sugar is the common reason for blowing out the recommended daily sugar intake of 50 grams or 12 teaspoons. Shockingly, around 70% of all packaged foods on Australian supermarket shelves contain added sugar.
Sugar and tooth decay
A diet that’s high in sugar has a negative impact on oral health. This is because sugar combines with the bacteria in the mouth that eats away at the enamel on teeth, causing decay.
“Did you know that a glass of juice and bowl of cereal for breakfast can equal 6 or more teaspoons of sugar?”
High sugar intake has also been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic inflammation and obesity. We recommend adopting a habit of checking food labels for sugar content in packaged foods and reducing overall intake.
Five natural sugar substitutes
In the meantime, here are some sugar substitutes to help reduce your table sugar intake:
- Frozen fruit such as grapes, blueberries, mangoes and bananas are a sweet addition to a smoothie. Add whole oats, your milk of choice and you’ve got yourself a meal.
- Medjool dates have a low GI (<55) and are a great way to add texture and colour in baking.
- Honey is less processed than sugar, has a lower GI (45-64) and contains nutrients and antioxidants.
- Coconut sugar contains a fibre called inulin, giving it a low GI quality. While it has the same caloric intake as cane sugar, it’s less processed and contains nutrients.
- Maple syrup is high in sugar but has less calories than honey and contains nutrients and antioxidants.
*These substitutes all still contain sugar but react differently in your body. Always eat in moderation.
Dental Health Week
It’s Dental Health Week from 3rd to 9th August and we’re raising awareness on ‘how much sugar is hiding in your trolley’. For more information about Dental Health Week, click here.
Learn more about the Kelmscott Dental team.
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