The move to grown-up teethMarch 10, 2020 5:52 am
When looking after children, teething and baby teeth take up a lot of attention. Starting up good habits like brushing twice a day is crucial when those first few incisors come through. However, it’s really important to pay attention to teeth all through childhood. Formally known as ‘mixed dentition’, losing baby teeth and gaining the permanent adult set is a long process for children – usually around six years in total – and it’s good to be aware of what happens along the way.
- The process
Baby teeth don’t fall out, so much as they are pushed out by the growth of adult teeth. This process starts when your child is aged around six or seven years. The teeth usually fall out in the same order as they emerged, meaning that front bottom teeth are normally the first to go. It’s normal to have a mix of adult and baby teeth, and it will look a little odd at first too. When it comes to adult teeth like incisors and molars, each set should come through at the same time on each side of the mouth. If the delay is longer than six months, then see your pediatric dentist (you should have dental appointments every six months anyway)!
Even with a full set of primary teeth, your child will have less than teeth than the grown-up set. There’s only 20 baby teeth in total, whereas you should have 32 teeth as an adult. This is because the mouth is much smaller when baby teeth come through. The jaw actually grows in length through childhood to make extra room. Primary teeth can appear to be whiter – this is because the enamel is thinner than for adult teeth. Baby teeth also have shorter roots, though you can’t see this. This is so there’s more room for adult teeth to grow underneath, and for baby teeth to fall out when the time is right. Very new adult teeth can have ridges – called mamelons, these bumps get worn down over time, so it’s not something to worry about.
- Some do’s and don’ts
Some children can be worried that losing teeth may hurt – it shouldn’t. Don’t force a tooth out, as this can cause infection later, though it’s ok to wiggle the tooth around to help loosen it. Molars coming through for the first time at the back of the mouth may be a little sore, but the discomfort shouldn’t last long. Make sure you supervise tooth brushing, maybe until eight years old. This is because it’s more important than ever to look after the permanent teeth when they come through.
- When baby teeth don’t fall out
Sometimes a second tooth starts to show through before the baby version has been lost. This is called ‘shark teeth’ – because sharks have multiple rows of teeth! It most commonly affects the lower incisor teeth at the front of the mouth. It’s not something to worry about, as the baby teeth will usually fall out of their own accord when they’re ready. Then the adult teeth will move into the right position. However, if the baby teeth are hanging around a little too long – say, the adult tooth is halfway through and the baby tooth isn’t even loose yet – then you should see your pediatric dentist. Extracting a tooth is an absolute last option, but sometimes the adult tooth can grow in a slightly different position to the baby version – meaning the baby tooth doesn’t get pushed out in the normal way. If you are at all worried, it’s best to see the dentist anyway.
- Care and maintenance
Throughout the tooth loss process, it’s really important to keep a good dental hygiene routine. Brush teeth twice a day, floss regularly, and visit the dentist every six months for a routine check-up. All of this will make sure your child has the right steps in place for a lifetime of healthy, happy teeth!
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