Questions and Facts

Do children need xrays?

There are many factors which determine if your child needs a dental xray as they get older such as if the teeth are close together, if there is evidence of dental decay, or there has been a significant delay in eruption of teeth into the mouth and if there are already fillings in the mouth which puts the child in a high-risk category.

With the use of digital radiology, we are happy to say that the dose of radiation received by your child is minimal. We aim to minimise the number of xrays taken, but it is advised that your child has two small xrays for caries detection when there is no spacing between the back teeth, at approximately one-year intervals, depending upon individual circumstances.

Should children see the hygienist?

Children can also benefit from having their teeth cleaned and polished as well as having fluoride applications to help prevent decay.

If your child is undergoing orthodontic treatment involving fixed appliances, whether they are placed on the outside or inside of the teeth, this makes maintaining good oral hygiene that little bit more difficult.

We recommend routine appointments EVERY 3-4 months with our dental hygienists in order to maintain healthy teeth and gums, especially during your orthodontic treatment. This will help prevent bleeding and swollen gums as well as tooth decay under the brace which will affect the outcome of your final orthodontic result.

How many teeth do we have and when do we start teething?

Your baby will have 20 baby teeth which usually come through from the age of about 6 months, but this can vary greatly.

Occasionally teeth can be present at birth (natal teeth) or shortly after birth (neonatal teeth). Sometimes these teeth need to be extracted/removed due to them being a coaching hazard or causing trauma to the mother during feeding.

Children’s permanent teeth start to erupt at the age of around 6 years and most of your child’s permanent teeth should have come through by the age of 12-14 years. The exception is wisdom teeth which are likely to emerge from the age of 17-21 years. Adults usually have 32 teeth, including wisdom teeth, if they are present.

When to start cleaning children’s teeth?

As soon as your child’s teeth start to come through, introduce them to the idea of cleaning. Use a small soft toothbrush to clean the teeth so your child gets used to it.

Brush regularly as part of your child’s morning and night-time routine, using a flat smear of fluoride toothpaste (with at least 500ppm fluoride but up to 1000ppm) until they are 3 years of age. After this time, you can use a small pea-sized amount. As your child gets older you can encourage them to do their own brushing but you should continue to supervise until they are 7 years of age. It is advisable to keep toothpaste out of the reach of young children. A manual toothbrush used correctly is as effective as an electric brush.

The last thing to touch a child’s teeth before they go to bed should be a fluoride toothpaste.

When should children start visiting the dentist?

As soon as your child gets their first teeth and certainly by their first birthday, take them to the dentist so they become familiar with the experience. Their first visit might be to accompany you or someone else in the family for a routine appointment.

The importance of Diet

What your child eats affects his/her teeth- a diet rich in carbohydrates, sugar and starches can potentially cause tooth decay.

Water should be made regularly available to your child from around the age of 6 months. Your child is less likely to get decay if their teeth are given a rest from food and drinks other than water between meal times.

It will be harder for you to control what your child eats and drinks as they get older but hopefully they have got used to healthy eating. We recommend that you encourage them to limit sweetened foods or drinks to mealtimes only and remember that some products marketed as being ‘healthy’, including sports drinks, contain high amounts of sugar.

Why is Fluoride recommended?

Over time, we have become increasingly aware of the important role of fluoride in strengthening tooth enamel. Fluoride is added to the tap water to prevent dental decay. Research has shown that there is substantially less dental decay in children’s teeth in areas where the drinking water is fluoridated.

Fluoride can also be found in toothpaste and other oral health products. When brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste, please do not rinse your child’s mouth after brushing as you will wash away the fluoride and lose its protective effect.

“Spit – don’t rinse” is the mantra! Fluoride varnish is an effective way to protect your child’s teeth and should also be discussed with your dental team.

Thumb sucking and dummies

Non-nutritive sucking habits, i.e. thumb or pacifier, are very common in children, with reported frequencies ranging from 40-95% below 12 months of age falling gradually with age. Most children have stopped by the age of 6.

Dental complications that arise from this habit are:

  • Narrowing of the upper jaw
  • Protruding upper front teeth
  • Increased overjet
  • Anterior open bite (gap between the upper and lower front teeth) results in lisping and also difficulty biting into food
  • Callus formation on the digits

If the child is 6 years or older, the habit can be reduced or stopped altogether in many cases by simple behaviour modification exercises. Rather than criticising for the act of sucking, which can be interpreted as punishment, reward a period of not sucking with a hug, an appropriate treat, or allowing to watch a favourite TV programme. That reward is more effective when linked with a verbal explanation of why it is being given.

In older children who are unable to stop the thumb sucking without help, orthodontic thumb guards can be fitted to help break the habit.

Maintaining oral health

If your child plays contact sports, ensure they have a professionally made mouthguard to optimise protection against dental trauma.

A mouthguard is made of soft plastic and fits comfortably to the shape of the upper teeth protecting the teeth, lips, cheeks and gums from sports-related injuries. Any mouth guard works better than no mouth guard, but a custom-fitted mouthguard is your child’s best protection against sports-related injuries.

Discourage sports drinks, which usually have a lot of sugar and are also acidic. This means they can cause dental decay, as well as acid, wear to the teeth, reducing them in size and strength.