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Your child's first visit to a dental clinic must be a pleasant experience. A bad first impression may last a lifetime. The right time to bring a child for a dental visit is before all the primary (milk) teeth have appeared - before the child has completed 2 years of age. This sets the stage for optimal preventive dentistry.
Fear of the dental clinic is learned from personal experience or what a child hears from others. Be completely natural when you inform your child about this visit. Make it sound like a routine item. Allow your child to get familiar with the dental clinic. Most important - do not show any anxiety or fear yourself. Children pick-up nonverbal cues very quickly and tend to mirror the emotions of their parents.
Anatomy of Childrens Teeth
Children have two sets of teeth, primary (milk or baby) teeth and permanent teeth. Both sets are important for children's speech, chewing, and for appearance. Additionally, milk teeth help in the proper development of muscles for chewing, and they also maintain the space so that permanent teeth can erupt in their correct positions.
From birth to the age of 6 months there are no teeth in the mouth. It is necessary for parents to clean the gum-pads with a soft cloth.
The first tooth appears in your child's mouth at the age of 6 months. Parents are required to begin brushing these teeth to prevent them from decaying. All the milk teeth erupt in the mouth by the age of 2 years. There are 20 milk teeth. Parents must brush their child's teeth, as the child will be unable to do so. The child can gradually be taught to brush his/her own teeth as soon as they have learnt to spit out the toothpaste.
These teeth are shed between the age of 7 and 12 years, and are replaced by permanent teeth. But we have 32 permanent teeth, and the additional 12 permanent teeth erupt behind the milk teeth. The first one of these erupts at the age of 6 years, and is called the first permanent molar. This is a very important tooth.
All permanent teeth erupt by the age of 14 years, except the wisdom teeth, which usually erupts between the age of 17 and 25 years.
Between the age of 6 and 12 years, a child has both milk and permanent teeth. This is called the mixed dentition stage. Parents of these children often mistakenly think that the teeth, though decayed, do not require treatment and will fall off, as they will be replaced with new teeth.
Teething does not cause fever and diarrhea! If present it is only a coincidence. At this age, children are very active and tend to put everything into their mouth and nostrils. This contributes to cold and flu like illnesses.
Usually the permanent teeth are located just below their milk predecessors. With pressure from the permanent tooth, the root of the milk tooth gets dissolved / eaten away, and the milk tooth falls out to make way for the permanent tooth. However, if the permanent tooth is placed too far away, it will erupt even without the primary tooth falling out. This causes double teeth, a new tooth behind or by the side of the old one.
Such a situation should corrected promptly if several weeks have elapsed. Timely removal of the milk tooth in such a case will allow the permanent tooth to take its correct place.
The age for correction of alignment differs from case to case, but in general, it is best done after the child has completed 12 years and all the permanent teeth have erupted. Many times early commencement of treatment gives better results, but treatment is possible at an older age also. The right person to consult is an orthodontist.
Causes of tooth decay in children are the same as in adults, but occurs more quickly. Being very small in size, decay reaches the nerve of a primary tooth very fast and causes pain.
Tooth destruction can occur so fast that some parents feel that the teeth were decayed when they first erupted. Remember, teeth can decay only after eruption and not before.
Decay of the primary teeth indicates that the child is susceptible to tooth decay and requires proper attention to maintain a healthy dentition. It does not mean that the permanent teeth will also get decayed.
Although all primary teeth are replaced by permanent teeth, this must happen at the right age. There is an appropriate time for each milk tooth to fall and the permanent successor to take its place.
If a milk tooth is lost much earlier than the scheduled time of eruption of the permanent successor, it is likely that space created by loss of the milk tooth will reduce or even close due to drifting of near by teeth. When the permanent tooth erupts it may not have enough space and grow in crooked.
Removal of the front primary teeth should be avoided before the age of 4 years, and the other primary teeth before the age of 9 years. If early removal of teeth is necessary, an appliance called a space-maintainer should be constructed for the child to wear. The function of this appliance is to maintain the space created by the loss of the primary tooth for the permanent successor.
Injuries to Teeth
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