Each February, the ADA (American Dental Association) sponsors a month long commitment to educate individuals and communities about the significance of oral health from a young age. Research shows that good dental hygiene habits developed early on are more likely to lead to a lifetime of oral health awareness and healthy smiles.
In the spirit of National Children's Dental Health Month, we, at Brighter, have put together a list of facts and recommendations for you to reference when it comes to staying informed and on top of your child's oral health.
- Baby teeth usually begin erupting when your child is about six months old. Most children have all of their baby teeth in place by age three.
- The average age to start losing baby teeth (usually the central incisors first) is around six years old.
- There are 20 total baby teeth and 32 total permanent teeth.
- Most children have all of their permanent teeth (excluding the 3rd molars or wisdom teeth) by age 13. Wisdom teeth generally erupt between the ages of 17 - 21, though some dentists prefer to remove them at an earlier age if their growth is interfering with the bite or placement of other teeth.
- There are several differences in the anatomy of permanent teeth and baby teeth:
- The enamel and dentin of permanent teeth is thicker than in baby teeth. This means that a cavity can travel through the protective layer to the vulnerable pulp chamber (where the nerve is) of the baby tooth quickly.
- Baby teeth are whiter than permanent teeth.
- The roots of baby teeth are shorter than permanent teeth. This allows the permanent teeth to develop underneath and make it easier for the roots to dissolve when it is time for the baby tooth to fall out.
- Mamelons are bumps or serrated type edges that frequently appear in children when a permanent tooth first appears. These are completely normal and are caused from the way the permanent tooth develops under the gum. Because these grooves are thin and uneven, most often, they quickly wear away as your child uses his/her new tooth and it fits together against the opposing tooth.
At home oral hygiene routines don't end with consistent brushing - kids need to floss too! The appropriate time to start flossing your child's teeth is as soon as the teeth begin to fit tightly together. This usually happens between the ages two and six. Manoeuvring floss effectively will be difficult for your child and you will probably need to supervise this activity until your child is able to floss on their own, an ability they typically develop around age ten. Try using flossers to make this activity easier and more kid friendly. Many stores even carry bright colors, fun shapes and fruit flavors to keep kids excited about flossing.
You should schedule your child's first visit to the dentist by age one. You can read more about why early dental care is important and what to expect at that initial visit in our blog post: What You Need to Know About Kids' Dental Health. Routine trips to the dentist for cleanings, fluoride treatments and checkups play an important role in maintaining your child's healthy smile.
Teach your child the many benefits of good diet, including the key part it plays in keeping our teeth healthy. A diet filled with sugary foods and drinks is much more likely to lead to cavities than one rich in calcium, proteins and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Oral health is a vital element to the overall health and well-being of kids, as well as adults. Keeping your kids excited about having a healthy mouth and consistent with their dental hygiene routines will most definitely take some effort on your part, and more than likely some creativity. But, this is energy well spent. As we said above, positive habits formed young lead to solid and consistent oral health practices as your child grows.
How do you keep your children involved and enthusiastic about keeping their teeth healthy? Whether it's brushing charts, character toothbrushes, or inventive brushing songs- we'd love for you to share what works for your family in the comments section below!