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Not Just Baby Teeth

A smile is a baby's way of reaching out to people. Even toothless, a baby's smile has the power to make people feel good. Something that precious needs care and attention right from day one. Sometimes that care is overlooked during a child's early years. The idea that "they're only baby teeth" leaves an impression that they are unimportant, but not so. Baby teeth need as much attention as permanent teeth. The Canadian Dental Association recommends the first dental visit by one year of age.

Consider that:

  • Baby teeth remain in a child's mouth until about age 10 or 12
  • Baby teeth help a child eat and speak
  • Cavities in baby teeth can cause pain and discomfort for a child
  • A baby tooth that is lost too early can cause crooked adult teeth
  • Extensive dental treatment on a young child can be expensive and upsetting, leaving a child anxious about future dental visits. Treatment may also have to be done in a hospital under general anaesthetic. This poses a health risk.
  • A child feels good and proud of a healthy smile.

Know your child's teeth

Dental care starts at home. In fact, during those important first years, few children ever see a dentist. Checkups at home can help spot problems early and they are easy to do. The first step is to know when to expect teeth to appear.

The diagram shows when "baby" teeth appear and when they are lost.  Most parents are well aware of when the front teeth come in, but many lose track when it comes to the molars grooves and cracks that easily trap small pieces of food. Children will need help with reminders of proper molar care.

It is worth taking a few minutes regularly to inspect your child's teeth. You may notice a white spot, a dark area or even a hole in a tooth. These could be early signs of a problem and should be checked by a dentist.

Cleaning a young child's teeth

Teeth need to be cleaned daily. For an infant, a piece of gauze or a clean face cloth can be used to simply wipe the teeth clean.

As the child grows, it becomes much easier to use a soft properly-sized toothbrush.

It is difficult for young children to clean their teeth properly. Parents will need to help with brushing until approximately age 7; or until the child has the dexterity to tie their own shoes.  Young children should be encouraged to practice brushing their own teeth, too.  Use only a very small amount (size of a grain of rice) of toothpaste on the tooth brush for children under three years of age. Those over age three can use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Children should be taught to spit out, not swallow the toothpaste and not to rinse to keep the fluoride in contact with the tooth surface for as long as possible.

Young children learn best by imitation. Brushing together can become part of the daily routine. Habits set early, when a child is eager to copy, are easier to maintain. Here are a few tips to get things off to a good start.

  • Make tooth brushing time fun.
  • If bedtime is not the best time to gain your child's cooperation, pick another time. A thorough cleaning twice a day is recommended.
  • If your child does not like your toothpaste, try another brand. As long as the toothpaste contains fluoride, it is fine.

Encourage Good Eating Habits - what's good for your teeth
Tooth Brushing Log-download this fun tool for children to track their 2 for 2 brushing (505kb PDF) 
Colouring Sheet (345kb PDF)
2 for 2 song

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