Your Oral Health

Your Child’s Teeth

Tooth Care

Your New Brunswick Dental Society is pleased to provide you with this guide to the ever-changing landscape of your child’s mouth, from birth through to adulthood.

What to do when your child gets his or her first tooth:

“Protecting Tiny Teeth” video for parents of young children.

The New Brunswick Dental Society has created this Public Information section to provide you with answers to your questions about dental procedures and terms. You’ll also find advice on regular oral health care, fun facts, and contact information for dental professionals across the province ready to help you care for your teeth.

Back to School Smiles

Back to school is a good time to “brush up” on your oral health. Dental health affects not only our mouths but can impact our overall health and well-being so it is extremely important that we teach our children at a young age how to care for their teeth and gums.
Further information

You’ve had a long day. Your baby’s being finicky. You’re tempted to put her to bed with a juice bottle so she goes to sleep quickly and quietly.

For the health of your baby’s teeth, resist the urge. When your baby’s teeth are constantly exposed to sugary liquids, they begin to deteriorate, resulting in a condition called baby bottle tooth decay. Instead of sweetened liquids like milk, formula, juice or soft drinks, feed your baby a bottle of cool water at bedtime.

Your baby needs strong, healthy teeth for all the same reasons you do. Primary or baby teeth are the placeholders for your child’s adult teeth. If these baby teeth have to be removed before they would be naturally lost, your baby’s adult smile could be in danger of becoming crooked or overcrowded, and may impact her speech development as she learns to talk.

Here are some tips from the Canadian Dental Association to help you prevent decay:

  • Even before your baby has teeth, wipe the baby’s gums with a clean damp washcloth or piece of gauze after each feeding.
  • Begin brushing your child’s teeth when the first tooth appears. Clean and massage gums that remain toothless. Begin flossing when all the baby teeth have come in, usually between two and three years old.
  • Never allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle of milk, formula, fruit juice, soft drink or sweetened liquids.
  • If your child needs a comforter between regular feedings, at night or during naps, fill a bottle with cool water or give the child a clean pacifier. Never give your child a pacifier dipped in any sweet liquid.
  • Start regular dental visits by your child’s first birthday. If you think your child has a dental problem, see your dentist as soon as possible.

Baby bottle tooth decay can cause toothaches and make it difficult to eat now. Left untreated, it can cause severe infection, leaving your dentist no choice but to remove the teeth. If that happens, your child may experience everything from poor eating habits to speech problems — even crooked, damaged or discoloured permanent teeth.

So prevent baby bottle tooth decay before it begins – and start your child off right.

Nothing makes your heart sing quite like the sight of your baby’s smile. Here are some quick tips from your New Brunswick Dental Society dentist that will help you keep that precious smile healthy and bright.

  • If your child relies on a bottle during bedtimes or at naps, make sure you use only water in the bottle. Giving your child a bottle of sweetened liquid such as milk, formula, juice or soda pop may lead to tooth decay.
  • To prevent decay, wipe your baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad after feedings.
  • As soon as the first tooth comes in, begin brushing with a little water and continue to clean the gums that remain toothless.
  • Help your child brush and be sure to use only a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste age 2 and under; pea-sized age 3 and older. Teach them to spit out toothpaste and to rinse with water.
  • Set a good example for your child! Brush your own teeth twice a day and floss once a day. Be positive about dental visits and visit your dentist regularly.
  • Make sure your child gets enough fluoride. Talk with your dentist about fluoride supplements if your child does not get enough fluoride through your water supply.
  • Get your child on the right track by starting regular dental visits by age one.
  • Ask your dentist for advice on sealants and mouth guards to protect your child from tooth decay and injury.
  • Let your dentist know about your child’s health so your dentist can make the appropriate recommendation for care.

For more ways to keep your entire family smiling on, talk to your New Brunswick Dental Society member dentist.

Ever found yourself entranced by a movie star’s gleaming smile and wished your own pearly whites could compare? With the help of modern-day orthodontics, your dream could very well become reality.

More than five million people across Canada and the United States are currently in the care of orthodontists – dentists who specialize in moving teeth, helping jaws develop properly and working to keep newly revitalized smiles in their new positions. So if you thought braces were just for kids, consider the facts:

  • Twenty percent of all orthodontic patients are over age 18.
  • Your self-confidence will improve along with your smile.
  • If you don’t seek treatment, your orthodontic problems could lead to tooth decay, gum disease, bone destruction and chewing and digestive problems.
  • A “bad bite” can lead to speech impairments, tooth loss and chipped teeth.
  • One of the primary goals of orthodontic treatment is to alleviate dental or physical health problems.
  • If you do have kids, you can save yourself money in the long run by having them screened by an orthodontist early. In fact, the Canadian Association of Orthodontists recommends that you take your children to see an orthodontist by the age of seven. After all, it’s easier to correct orthodontic problems if they’re caught early – before a child has all his or her permanent teeth.

Wondering what signals should tip you off to the need for an early orthodontic exam? Here are some guidelines:

  • early or late loss of teeth;
  • difficulty chewing or biting;
  • thumb sucking;
  • breathing through the mouth rather than the nose;
  • crowding, misplaced or blocked out teeth;
  • jaws that shift or make sounds;
  • speech problems;
  • biting the cheek or the roof of the mouth;
  • teeth that don’t align properly or don’t meet at all;
  • jaws that are too far forward or back; and
  • grinding or clenching of the teeth.

So if you want a smile that’s worth a million bucks, visit your orthodontist’s office. Before you know it, you’ll have a megawatt smile as gorgeous as any you’ve seen sparkling from a red carpet!

You eat a well-balanced diet. So does your family. You brush regularly. You floss every day. You see your dentist every six months. You’ve got your bases covered, right? But are you getting enough Fluoride?

Fluoride, a natural element present in certain foods and water sources, is vital for strong, decay-resistant teeth. If you’re lucky, you’re one of millions of Canadians who benefit from the fluoridation of their drinking water. If not, you may need to take extra steps to make sure you are exposed to the proper amounts of this decay fighter.

Consider the facts:

  • Water fluoridation, which began in 1945, is the most cost-effective method for preventing tooth decay.
  • Fluoridation has played a major role in the reduction of tooth decay — 40 – 70 percent fewer cavities in children and 40 – 60 percent fewer cavities in adults.
  • Young children’s teeth need fluoride to help harden the tooth enamel and make it more resistant to decay. In adults, fluoride can repair the early stages of tooth decay before it can create noticeable problems.
  • If there’s not enough fluoride in your water supply—community or well—you should ask your dentist how you and your family can get the proper amount of fluoride. Your dentist may prescribe a daily fluoride supplement to ensure your children get adequate amounts of fluoride.
  • Toothpaste, mouth rinses and professionally applied fluoride treatments are all examples of direct applications of fluoride.
  • The cost of water fluoridation for a lifetime of protection costs approximately $41, less than it costs to fill just one cavity.

Think of fluoride as your secret weapon. It’s the key to good dental health. But like any team player, it can’t offer you full protection by itself. You need to back it up with regular bushing, flossing and regular visits to your dentist.

Building a solid foundation for your child’s dental health is as easy as 1, 2, 3, when you begin dental care early and keep it consistent.

Your baby’s relationship with the dentist should begin with a milestone that every parent looks forward to – the arrival of the first tooth. Your child’s baby teeth, which start coming in between six and twelve months of age, are essential to the process of learning to chew food, to speaking and to your baby’s overall appearance.

During the first visit, your dentist will check for decay and make sure your baby’s teeth, mouth and facial bones are developing the way they should. Your dentist will also teach you how to properly clean your child’s teeth and gums, and determine whether your baby needs fluoride supplements.

But most importantly, this visit will set the stage for a positive relationship with your dentist that will put your baby on track for a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Stage One

For days, your baby cries inconsolably – fussing and fretting her tiny heart out. Then suddenly, it appears – her first tooth! You sigh with relief. The trauma is over.

But there’s 19 more waiting in the wings, hiding just out of sight in your baby’s gums. By the time your baby reaches her first birthday, she’ll probably have all four front teeth, and, by the age of three, she’ll have all 20 primary teeth. That means more future fussing.

The next time your baby seems to be teething, gently rub her gums with a clean finger, cool spoon or wet gauze pad. A clean teething ring may also help comfort her. But if she comes down with a fever, call your doctor. Contrary to popular belief, that’s not a normal part of teething.

These teeth are not permanent, and will eventually be claimed by the Tooth Fairy as adult teeth push their way in. Still, it’s important to follow and teach good oral health to your baby. Tooth decay can begin as soon as the first teeth appear, and, if the primary teeth get decayed, her adult teeth may be damaged too.

To prevent this from happening, begin the twice-daily ritual of brushing and flossing as soon as the first teeth appear, and get in to see your dentist before her first birthday. You can also keep these important placeholders healthy by feeding her a balanced diet, and supplying her with healthy snacks from one of the five food groups instead of sugary sweets and candy.

It is also very important to limit sipping and nibbling with snacks and drinks. If teeth are constantly exposed to any kind of sugar (even from nutritious foods) they will develop cavities.

How Teeth Grow: Stage Two

Soon after you cross the milestone of your child’s first day of school, her mouth will begin changing again. It will start with the arrival of her six-year molars when she’s between five and six years old. These may be her very first adult teeth, and they are very important because they help determine the shape of her occlusion (bite) and the development of her lower face. You’ll want to pay special attention to these teeth so they last throughout your child’s lifetime. Many others will follow these molars over the next 15 years. By the time she’s 21 years old, she’ll have all 32 of her adult teeth.

Out of Line:

Sometime between the ages of 6 and 12, you may notice that your child’s teeth seem crooked, crowded or out of alignment. Her jaw may even appear to be not lining up correctly.

When this happens, it’s called a malocclusion (bad bite), and usually necessitates orthodontic treatment. If you ignore it, hoping she’ll “grow out of it,” she could face several difficulties:

  • Difficulty keeping the teeth and gums clean where teeth are crooked or crowded, which can increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Interference with the proper development of the jaws.
  • Teeth are more easily chipped or fractured.
  • Problems with normal speech.
  • Teeth are more likely to wear faster than those that are properly aligned.

The best thing to do to prevent these problems is have her bite evaluated by your New Brunswick Dental Society dentist before it becomes an issue. Early examination and treatment by your dentist can help prevent or reduce the severity of malocclusions in the permanent teeth.

Your dentist may recommend orthodontic treatment – either to prevent or to correct a problem before it becomes severe. Although there are many variables that make it impossible to predict how long or how extensive orthodontic treatment will be, one thing’s certain – it will go much more smoothly and quickly if your child cooperates. So make sure she understands how important orthodontic treatment is to her future health and appearance.

That covers all you need to know about the development of your child’s teeth. If you have more questions, give your dentist a call. Your dentist will be your best resource and your biggest ally when it comes to keeping your child’s smile beautiful and bright throughout her life.

Do you have a budding athlete on your hands? You’re probably already buying pads for a host of vulnerable body parts, including knees and elbows. Make sure you add your child’s teeth to the list. Surprisingly, the mouth is the most commonly injured area of the body in contact sports. You can prevent or minimize the possibility of injury by purchasing a mouth guard.

A mouth guard covers the upper teeth and helps to prevent injuries to the teeth, lips, cheeks, tongue and jaw, as well as concussions. Talk to your dentist about which of the following types of mouth guards are right for your child:

  • Stock or ready-made mouth guards are the least expensive and can be bought at most sports stores. Since they’re pre-formed, they often don’t fit very well. In fact, many athletes complain they make it difficult to breathe and speak and are too bulky, loose or uncomfortable.
  • Boil-and-bite mouth guards, available at most sporting goods stores, may offer a better fit. You can mould these guards to fit your child’s mouth by boiling them in water and having your child bite into the warm plastic.
  • Your dentist can design and construct a custom-fitted mouth guard. While this type of guard is more expensive than others, its custom fit protects your child’s breathing and speech from interference.

Caring for your child’s mouth guard is simple. Just rinse it under cold water after each use and occasionally clean it with soap and cool water. Since mouth guards can tear or wear out, be sure to replace it after each sporting season.

Talk to your dentist about preserving that all-star smile today. Your child’s teeth will thank you for it.

Eating for two? It’s important to eat right so your baby develops properly. But did you realize that what you eat affects your baby’s teeth?

Your baby’s teeth begin to form between the third and sixth month of pregnancy. To give those teeth a strong, healthy start, you need to consume the right amounts of vitamins A, C and D, protein, calcium and phosphorus. Your doctor can help you determine which foods and vitamins you can eat now to help your baby smile on in the future.

Here’s a list of common pregnancy myths so you can separate fact from fiction.

“You’ll lose one tooth with each pregnancy.”

Don’t lose any sleep over this one – it’s absolutely false.

“Your baby steals the calcium from your teeth.”

The teeth are a “closed” system”. Calcium cannot be “stolen” from our teeth. However, if you don’t consume enough calcium-rich foods, your body will take calcium from your bones.

“You’re more likely to get gum disease while you’re pregnant because your hormone levels are always changing.”

There is a condition known as pregnancy gingivitis where, in the 2nd trimester, some women will experience swollen and bleeding gums due to the increased blood volume that occurs at that time. This gingivitis can be controlled with diligent brushing, flossing and oral care. It generally subsides in the 3rd trimester.

“Even if you do have gum disease, it won’t affect you or your baby’s health.”

New research suggests a link between pre-term, low-birth weight babies and gum disease. The bacteria that cause gum disease can enter your bloodstream through your gums. If this happens, the bacteria can travel to the uterus, triggering the production of a chemical called “prostaglandin,” which is suspected to induce premature labour.

“It doesn’t matter if you put off seeing your dentist until after you have your baby.”

Good dental care is even more important during your pregnancy. You should continue with your dental checkups to avoid oral infections that could affect your baby, such as gum disease.

Wondering if diet pop provides some protection for your teeth? Diet pop contains the same acids as regular varieties, and can erode away the enamel on your teeth as well as cause decay.

So what can you do to reduce your risk of decay? The best way is to cut down on the amount of soda you drink. Next time you’re thirsty, reach for milk or water, or even a thirst-quenching fruit like grapes, watermelon or apples. Here are some other tips:

  • Avoid sipping soft drinks, or any liquid other than water, throughout the day. Instead, drink them in a short time with food or as part of a meal.
  • If you can’t brush, rinse your mouth with water after drinking pop.
  • Eat foods that are high in sugar or are sticky and more likely to cause tooth decay during meals rather than between meals.
  • Brush and floss regularly to remove the plaque that can lead to tooth decay.
  • Ask your dentist about the use of fluoride products to lessen further decay.

The good news is you don’t have to eliminate soft drinks from your diet. But use them sparingly – making them the treat they were originally intended to be.

Thumb sucking is natural. But can it hurt your baby’s teeth? That depends.

Chances are your child will stop sucking his thumb on his own between two to four years of age. If not, there is some cause for concern. Once permanent teeth start coming in, persistent sucking can cause the front upper teeth to come in improperly, most often becoming pushed outwards toward the lip. However, simply resting a thumb or finger in the mouth is less likely to cause damage than if your child aggressively sucks his thumb.

Only your dentist can tell you if your child’s thumb sucking presents a problem. If you’re concerned, go ahead and schedule a visit. Your dentist is dedicated to keeping your baby’s teeth in tip-top shape throughout his developmental years.

Did you know protecting your children’s teeth is as easy as a paint-by-number picture? By applying paint-on sealants to your children’s molars, your dentist can lock out decay-causing germs and food particles.

Sealants are painted on as a liquid and quickly dry to form a hard protective shield over the tooth. Molars are particularly in need of reinforcement because they have small, difficult-to-clean pits where food and germs tend to get stuck.

Sealants can offer protection for up to ten years, but it’s a good idea to have them checked during regular office visits to make sure they’re not worn or chipped. If they are, your dentist can fix them simply by applying “touch-up” sealant.

Protect your children’s teeth and possibly save them from the need for costly and invasive fillings. Talk to your dentist today about paint-on sealants.

Just when you think your child’s teenage troubles are over, it happens – a new set of teeth start coming in. Called wisdom teeth, these troublemakers are a set of four teeth that pop up at the back of the jaw and start making themselves known around the age of 17 or 18.

If they’re healthy and positioned properly, wisdom teeth are no problem. Unfortunately, wisdom teeth often need to be removed. In deciding whether to remove these late arrivals, your dentist will consider many factors, including:

  • Does your mouth have four empty parking spaces? If there’s not enough room for your wisdom teeth, they’ll try to squeeze themselves in any way they can. But just like a car trying to slide into a space that’s too small, wisdom teeth often become impacted and even damage their next-door neighbours. They can even grow sideways or stay trapped underneath the gums and bone. This can cause your other teeth to move out of alignment and cause crooked teeth or an incorrect bite. Not a good thing if you’ve already invested in braces for that award-winning smile.
  • Sometimes they get stuck halfway. This leaves an opening for germs to enter and cause an infection. Pain, swelling, a stiff jaw and general illness can result.
  • If left untreated, a sac filled with fluid, or cyst, can develop which can destroy the surrounding bone or tooth roots.

To avoid these complications, it’s best to have your children’s wisdom teeth checked by your dentist. He’ll let you know if they have enough room or if it’s better to take them out before they cause problems.

A good diet is important for your child’s overall growth and development. Like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones and soft tissues of the mouth also need a well-balanced diet. Children should always eat a variety of foods from the five major food groups:

  • fruits;
  • vegetables;
  • bread, cereals and other whole-grain products;
  • milk, cheese and yogurt; and
  • meat, poultry, fish and alternates, such as dry beans, peas, eggs and nuts.

Certain eating habits play a role in how foods affect a child’s teeth. The more often your child snacks, the greater the chance for tooth decay. How long food remains in the mouth also plays a role. For example, hard candy and breath mints stay in the mouth a long time, which cause longer acid attacks on tooth enamel and can result in tooth decay.

Dentally healthy snack options include popcorn, cheese, raw vegetables, nuts, gelatin, unsweetened yogurt, and sugarless gum or candy. But be aware. Even nutritious snacks and drinks will cause tooth decay if they are nibbled on or sipped frequently. Children like to “graze” which can be very unhealthy for their teeth.

It is important to have a good diet for your child’s teeth to develop the way they should. For strong teeth that are resistant to decay, children need protein, vitamins, and minerals, especially calcium, phosphorus and proper amounts of fluoride. Pregnant women should make sure that their diets supply adequate nutrients, because their babies’ teeth begin to develop as early as six weeks into the pregnancy and start to calcify between the third and sixth month of pregnancy.

Young children may not need as much food. They can have smaller servings from all the groups except milk, which should total two servings per day.