Children’s dentistry is the part of our practice which deals with the prevention and interception of dental disease in all adolescents and teenagers up to the age of 16.

It is very important to understand the differences between adult teeth and children’s teeth to fully comprehend the need for additional emphasis on children’s dentistry.

The differences are

Between six and ten months of age, most infants begin to get their "baby" teeth.  Between 6 months and 3 years of age most teeth erupt starting from the middle roughly and going back. By 3 years of age most babies have 20 teeth present in their mouth.

Care should be taken to encourage brushing these baby teeth with a fluoridated tooth paste which is specifically formulated for baby teeth. Most commercial brands now make children’s tooth paste and adult pastes are best avoided due to the risk of over consumption.

The central Incisors fall out first and are replaced by permanent teeth followed by new molars erupting at the back at the age of 6 or 7. By the age of 21, most people have all their permanent teeth.

Deciduous teeth are important because they preserve the space for permanent teeth and help guide them into correct position. Deciduous play an important role in the development of speech and chewing as well as early development of the jaw bone.

A regular visit at the dentist is encouraged at an early age to help children develop trust at the dentist. Early detection can help prevents serious problems later.

The main differences are

Longevity

Baby teeth are also called deciduous teeth because they fall out over a period of time between typically 6 years to 14 years of age.

Losing Teeth

Baby teeth will typically begin to fall out when their roots dissolve, around the age of 5. This makes room for the larger, permanent adult teeth that grow in their place at the same time that the jaw is developing

Shape and Size

Adult teeth and baby teeth have the same internal anatomy, but permanent are larger and stronger and more mineralised

Function

Both sets of teeth have the same functions such as incising, tearing and masticating phonetics and swallowing. .

Different areas of children’s dentistry are

Preventive care

Preventive care starts with parental education about their role in preventing gum problems and cavities in children

Parental education

The most important reason for parent’s education is to establish a prevention program. Dental problems can begin early. A big concern is Early Caries (formerly known as baby bottle tooth decay or nursing caries). As the child’s diet changes to things other than breast milk, erupted teeth are at risk for decay. The earlier the dental visit, the better the chance of preventing dental problems. Children with healthy teeth chew food easily. Good dental habits last a lifetime and early intervention and more importantly prevention is the key.

At-will breast-feeding should be avoided after the first primary (baby) teeth begin to erupt and other sources of nutrition have been introduced. Parents should never encourage a child to go to bed with a bottle with anything else but water. Drinking juice from a bottle should be avoided. Fruit juice should only be offered in a cup with meals or at snack time.

Certain habit like thumb sucking is perfectly normal for infants; many stop by age 2. Prolonged thumb sucking can create alignment problems later like crooked teeth and crowding and even sometimes change the shape of the developing jaw bone, If the habit continues beyond age 3, a professional evaluation from an orthodontist is recommended. Dentists here at healthy smiles encourage early children’s dentistry to include orthodontic evaluation at 8 years of age.

Start cleaning the baby’s teeth as soon as the first one has erupted. The sooner the better, starting at birth, clean your child’s gums cotton wool and water. As soon as the teeth begin to appear, start brushing twice daily using fluoridated toothpaste and a soft, brush which can usually be purchased from a local supermarket. Make sure it is reputable company and definitely DON’T use an electric tooth brush. Use a "small blob of toothpaste to brush the teeth of a child less than 2 years of age. For the 2-5 year old, dispense a "pea-size" amount of toothpaste and perform or assist your child’s tooth brushing. Please help children to do this as they don’t have enough motor control until 4 years old.

From six months to age 3, your child may have tender gums when teeth erupt. Many children like a clean teething ring, cool spoon or cold wet washcloth. Bonjela or any other antiseptic cream helps immensely and so does a small dose of Panadol sometimes at bedtime to keep you sane in the morning and help the child to sleep at night.

Early orthodontics

Nowadays almost everyone between the age of 10 and 14 years of age have orthodontics to improve the smile and alignment of the teeth. Straight teeth look better but the advantage of early orthodontics is beyond aesthetics. Children’s dentistry and early orthodontics can straighten crooked teeth, guide erupting teeth into position, correct bite problems, and even prevent the need for tooth extractions. Aligned teeth can be kept cleaner and easier to maintain and have less interdental cavities.

Early orthodontics can be anything from braces to plates with arch wires for minor problems to head gear and more complicated devices for myofacial orthodontics.

As with any dental treatment, the more a child cooperates, the better the results. Regular dental visits are encouraged to improve hygiene and avoid cavities. Also use of GC tooth mousse prevents cavities and decalcification. Diet needs to be

Caries management

Dental caries is an infectious, communicable disease, which causes destruction of teeth by acid-forming bacteria found in dental plaque. The most important concept to remember is that caries is a dynamic disease process, and not a static problem. Secondly, before a cavity is formed in the tooth can be reversed in the early stages with use of calcium remineralising pastes.

Caries progression or reversal is determined by the balance between protective and pathological factors in the mouth such as bacteria. The fight is between remineralisation and demineralisation and cavities happen when demineralisation exceeds remineralisation.

Baby teeth have thinner enamel than permanent teeth, making them very susceptible to caries.

Dental caries in children is typically first observed clinically as a “white spot lesion.” If the tooth surface remains intact and non-cavitated, then remineralisation of the enamel is possible. As the demineralisation progresses from the acids produced by bacteria eating sugar the cavity gets deeper.

Saliva has a critical role in the prevention of dental caries. Saliva provides calcium, phosphate, proteins, lipids, antibacterial substances, and buffers. Saliva buffering can reverse the low pH in plaque, and with a higher pH, calcium and phosphate can be driven back into.

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