“Paediatric Dentistry is the branch of dentistry that is concerned with preventive and therapeutic oral health care for children from birth to adolescence, and especially for those with special needs. It includes management of orofacial problems related to medical, behavioural, physical and developmental disabilities.” – Australasian Academy of Paediatric Dentistry
Paediatric Dentists are specialist dentists who have completed at least three years of additional full-time university training following their degree in general dentistry. In Australia, the specialist training must then be registered with the Dental Board of Australia.
You can get your baby used to having their mouth cleaned early on by wiping the gums with a gauze or wet washcloth. This can lead to better cooperation when a toothbrush is introduced.
Start cleaning your baby’s teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts. Use a small, soft toothbrush with plain water twice a day, in the morning and before bed at night. A small smear of fluoridated toothpaste can be introduced at 18 months. You should also start gently flossing if the teeth have tight contacts.
Young children do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively. They can develop these skills by having a go first before you follow up to make sure all surfaces have been cleaned. Children will generally require assistance with toothbrushing and flossing until about 8 years of age. after which supervision is still often necessary.
Children should have an oral health check by the time they turn one, or when their first tooth emerges. An early examination, anticipatory guidance, and preventive care will protect your child’s teeth. As soon as teeth erupt they are at risk of decay, which is also known as early childhood caries. Risk factors are commonly oral hygiene and dietary factors, and chalky teeth (developmental dental defects).
Signs of early childhood caries can be difficult to see in the early stages. The preliminary sign of tooth decay is often a dull, white band on the tooth surface closest to the gum line. As decay progresses, teeth can become yellow, brown or black, with sections of the tooth chipping or breaking away easily. Decay and chalky teeth are easily confused, so come to us as soon as possible and we’ll sort out which is which.
Baby teeth are important for jaw development, proper chewing and eating, speech development, and act as a guide for the eruption of permanent teeth. The front baby teeth (incisors) generally fall out between 6-8 years of age. However, the back teeth (canines and molars) will remain until 10-13 years of age.
Untreated decay in a baby tooth can often lead to pain or infection, and can affect the permanent tooth which is developing underneath. Decay can also spread to adjacent teeth. Untreated dental disease has been shown to affect a child’s quality of life, including pain, compromised quality of sleep, poor nutrition, lack of concentration and poor performance at school.
If baby teeth are lost early, this creates open spaces which allows other teeth to move, resulting in crowding of permanent teeth. This often results in the need for more complex orthodontic treatment.
Good feeding habits will help to prevent tooth decay. When your baby has finished feeding, remove them from the breast or bottle. You should not put your baby to bed with a bottle, and never put sweet drinks in a baby bottle. Pacifiers should never be dipped in honey or anything sweet before giving it to a baby.
From about 12 months of age, children should be drinking from a cup, and water should be the main drink. Plain, full fat milk is also a healthy drink choice. Fruit juice is not necessary or recommended for children due to its high sugar content and acidity. The frequency of snacking should also be limited, as this can also increase risk of tooth decay.
Sometimes teeth do not develop or harden properly, and can result in creamy yellow-brown or opaque white areas on tooth surfaces. The defect can be restricted to a small area on a tooth, but can also affect the entire tooth surface. Molars are more commonly affected, but it can also occur on the front teeth. This process has been found to occur during the third trimester, or within the first few months following birth. It can be more common in babies born prematurely, or with a complex medical history. Chalky or ‘hypomineralised’ teeth are usually weaker, and often have a much higher risk of tooth decay. It is crucial that these teeth are diagnosed early, to ensure that the full range of treatment options can be considered. Learn more about chalky teeth here.