Baby teeth

Why treat baby teeth? Can’t my dentist just pull them out?

It’s important to keep baby teeth as long as possible. Besides providing chewing ability during childhood, baby teeth help a child learn to speak. They also guide the permanent teeth into their correct positions. Remember, too, that kids are often embarrassed by how they look after teeth are pulled out.

What about crowding of my child’s baby teeth? Can’t we just pull some to make room for permanent ones?

Removing baby teeth isn’t always the answer, although crowding may occasionally be relieved by extracting permanent teeth. Crowding can occur because the permanent teeth, not the baby teeth, are too big for the available space in the jawbone. Extracting baby teeth can create problems that are more difficult to correct later. Talk to your dentist about other options.

My child’s new tooth is coming in behind her baby tooth. Is this normal?

Yes, this is fairly normal. To make sure that there isn’t any abnormal crowding, which can sometimes be corrected by extracting the baby tooth, have your child’s dentist or orthodontist evaluate the situation.

Why is my child the only one in her class that hasn’t lost a tooth?

While there really is very little need for concern (what is considered the “normal” period for losing teeth varies with each child), you should ask your dentist to look at your child’s baby teeth to make sure that they are not blocking the growth of permanent teeth and that all of their permanent teeth are developing normally.

How do I look after the dental health of my baby’s teeth?

You can start your child on their way to a great smile for a lifetime by cleaning their mouth when they are infants.

Begin by gently wiping your child’s gums with a clean, wet washcloth or gauze after feeding. As they start to sprout teeth, the feeling of the wet washcloth on the itchy, irritated gums will be very soothing. Wiping the gums will eliminate decay-causing bacteria and will help in getting used to having teeth brushed, later on.

Once your baby has a tooth, between 6 and 12 months, you can introduce an infant toothbrush. Make sure it has soft, round bristles so it won’t scratch the gums. Brushing with just water is fine, but if your dentist recommends a toothpaste, use a very small amount, about the size of a pea or less. Babies usually enjoy the flavour of toothpaste and often swallow it, and ingestion of fluoride can cause problems over time.

Brush teeth after every feeding and again at bedtime. By now your baby should enjoy the feeling of having her gums massaged and teeth cleaned! Keeping your baby’s teeth clean is more important than you may realize. Baby teeth have thinner enamel than adult teeth and are more vulnerable to the bacteria that cause decay. Decay in a baby’s tooth is swift and destructive; it quickly penetrates the enamel, then the dentine and then infects the nerve.

Baby teeth eventually fall out, so why should it matter if they are lost early? Most dentists believe that baby teeth should remain in the mouth as long as possible, to serve as placeholders for the adult teeth that will follow. When baby teeth are lost early, the surrounding teeth often tilt and move toward the empty space. This can cause the permanent teeth to come in crooked.

Chewing Gum

Chewing gum may not be as bad for you after all, yes you read that right, if you don’t keep on chewing a gum for hours at a time it has been said that chewing gum after a meal can eliminate food particles which are trapped within the teeth and can also increase the production of saliva which prevents the plaque build-up. But make sure that you are always chewing a sugar-free gum! Generally, chewing gums are not recommended during orthodontic treatment as they may damage the braces or get stuck between the brackets, creating a lot of difficulties in keeping the braces clean.

Fun statistics and facts!

  • According to recent surveys both men and women feel guilty when they forgot to brush their teeth. Apparently most people feel that brushing their teeth is some sort of obligation which was imposed at them ever since they were little. In fact, over 79% of those interviewed reported that they brush their teeth because it is something they were told to do throughout their lives.
  • Well over 75% (three out of four people) don’t change their toothbrush as often as it should be. It is recommended for hygiene reasons so it should be replaced every two to three months.
  • New born babies have no caries forming bacteria. In fact, it is the baby’s mother or father who transmits the plaque forming bacteria by blowing on food before feeding and kissing the baby’s mouth
  • Always replace a toothbrush after you have had a cold, sore throat or some bad infections. The bacteria planted on the toothbrush can lead to re-infection.
  • There was a sudden massive surge in dental patients with tooth decay the year coca cola was launched!
  • Like finger prints, every tongue is different.
  • The average woman smiles about 62 times per day! A man? Only 8! And kids laugh about 400 times a day, grownups, only 15!

Sensitive teeth

Many adults experience occasional sensitivity to cold, sweet or hot food and beverages. The pain can be short, sharp and unexpected.

The main cause of these pain sensations is exposed necks of teeth, which are more vulnerable to temperature changes. In addition, excessive acidic food and fizzy drinks can erode the surface and cause dentine hypersensitivity.

Regardless of the triggers and frequency of your pain, let your dentist or hygienist know. In the first instance, they will ensure no other factors are contributing to the sensitivity and they can recommend the appropriate treatment.

What is dentine sensitivity?

Many adults suffer from sensitive teeth or dentine hypersensitivity. This condition is most common when the root surfaces of teeth are exposed due to gum recession. The main core of the tooth consists of dentine with many tubules running from the outer edge of the tooth dentine to its inner centre, which contains the nerve.

These microscopic dentine tubules contain fluid which moves when exposed to cold, heat, touch or high sugar concentrations in the mouth. This stimulates the nerve and causes pain and discomfort.

Dental decay

Dental caries or tooth decay is a demineralization of the tooth surface cause by acids produced by bacteria in the mouth. The cavities are the result of prolonged loss of minerals like calcium and phosphate, from enamel and dentine. A white spot on the tooth, often near the gums, may be an early sign of demineralization. At this early stage, minerals can be replaced with the help of fluoride to repair the tooth. If minerals continue to be lost, a hole (cavity) forms in the tooth and a filling is needed to repair the damage.

Decay in adults is common on the chewing surfaces, the surfaces between the teeth and around fillings. A particular problem may be decay on the root surfaces of teeth when gums recede.

What can you do to prevent dental caries?

Remove plaque thoroughly from all surfaces by daily brushing and flossing. You may check the effectiveness of your brushing by using a disclosing tablet (dye) to show where you are not removing plaque from.

  • Use a fluoride toothpaste at least twice daily, in the morning and before bed.
  • Use a soft toothbrush and brush in a set pattern so that you don’t miss any teeth.
  • Use floss or other special cleaning aids to clean between teeth, where cavities often develop (ask your dental professional how to use).
  • Make changes in your diet to reduce sugar intake – beware of hidden sugar.
  • If you have a feeling of dry mouth, talk to your dentist or hygienist.
  • Have regular dental check-ups, twice a year. Your dentist or hygienist can recognize early signs of tooth decay, like white spots near the gum line, while a dark spot may be decay or may be a stain.

Fluoride acts against destruction of the tooth surface by acids formed by bacteria in several ways. It forms a store of fluoride on the teeth from which fluoride is released during an acid attack. It reduces the loss of minerals from the tooth and promotes repair of early decay.

Gum disease

Plaque is one of the main causes of gum disease. If plaque is not removed by daily brushing and flossing, it will accumulate on the teeth and below the gum line, which can lead to gingivitis. This is the first stage of gum disease. If ignored, gingivitis can progress to a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis, which results in a damage of both the gums and bones that support your teeth.

 How do you know if you have gum disease?

Watch out for these early warning signs:

  • Your gums are tender and swollen or red
  • Your gums bleed when you brush or floss
  • You can’t get rid of bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth

If you think you might have gum disease, visit your dentist straight away for a professional examination and cleaning. If caught early enough, gum disease can usually be controlled.

Preventative Care

Fluoride toothpaste

With today’s diets, saliva alone is not enough to prevent tooth decay for most people. Fluoride is also needed each day. Generally fluoride containing toothpaste, twice a day and regular drinking of water will provide enough protection.

Studies have shown that brushing twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste reduces the risk of tooth decay much more than only brushing once a day. However, additional fluoride protection may be needed if the risk of tooth decay is higher, eg. Due to dry mouth, frequent intake of sugary foods and drinks.


It is important that you remove plaque daily and thoroughly from all tooth surfaces by brushing and flossing. If plaque is not removed each day, the plaque can harden and form calculus (tartar). Calculus cannot be removed by brushing. Calculus traps more plaque and makes it more difficult to keep teeth clean.

Dental Floss

Floss is the best tool to clean between teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach. 40% of the tooth surfaces are between the teeth. If flossing proves difficult, there are other means, like interdental brushes and toothpicks. Get the advice of your dentist to what is best suited for you, and how to use interdental brushes.


Mouthrinses do not replace the need to brush and floss everyday. They provide extra fluoride in case of higher risk of tooth decay. Generally, fluoride mouthrinses are used twice daily, preferably between brushing. Mouthrinses are not recommended for children under 6 years of age. Always read the label and use only as directed.

Some mouthrinses can contain high alcohol contents. Always check the label and choose a mouthrinse with the lowest alcohol content possible.

Dental Erosion

Modern lifestyles present a number of challenges for your body including teeth. Dental erosion is the irreversible loss of tooth tissue due to exposure to acid. Sources of acid exposure can be intrinsic (from within your body) or extrinsic (from outside your body).

People at risk from intrinsic acid exposure include those who experience gastric reflux or recurrent vomiting.

Extrinsic acid can be found in some of our most popular everyday drinks and foods. These include:

  • Drinks such as fruit juice, wine, carbonated drinks and sport drinks
  • Foods such as citrus fruits (oranges, lemons etc)
  • Medications, e.g. Vitamin C, Aspirin, and some iron preparations.

Brushing straight after meals

Brushing your teeth straight after a meal may not be the good habit you think it is. To help control dental erosion, it is recommended you avoid brushing for at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking acidic foods or drinks.

Dry mouth and erosion

Saliva plays an important role in buffering acids within the mouth and reducing their effect on teeth. It is the mouths own cleaning system. Saliva also dilutes and washes away food particles and acids. If you often have a dry mouth, erosion may damage your teeth more quickly.

  • People with an increased risk of dental erosion include those who:
  • Have a high intake of acidic foods or drinks
  • Have a low salivary flow or dry mouth
  • Have an insufficient water intake
  • Have a high intake of caffeine-containing drinks
  • Are dehydrated due to their active lifestyles.

Controlling dental erosion

Managing dental erosion requires managing the lifestyle factors which put you at risk while strengthening your teeth against acid attack.

Here are a few helpful tips:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Drink milk or non-acidic drinks in place of carbonated drinks, fruit drinks and cordials
  • Drink quickly or with a straw (avoiding sipping or swishing)
  • Restrict acidic foods and drinks to main meals
  • Brush twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste and a soft toothbrush
  • Visit your dentist for regular checkups so that signs of erosion can be detected early

Dental health during pregnancy

When you are pregnant, you know how important it is to take special care of your body. However, you should also know that pregnancy is a time to take extra special care of your teeth and gums. That’s because hormonal changes in your body due to pregnancy can increase your chances of developing gum disease.

So while you’re pregnant, make sure you practice great oral hygiene. This means, brushing and flossing, twice a day, every day. By combining this routine with a healthy, balanced diet and regular dental visits, you will not only help avoid dental problems of your own, you will also contribute to the healthy development of your baby!

Pregnancy causes hormonal fluctuations that increase you risk for gum disease. The changing hormone levels in your body can make your gums more sensitive to harmful plaque – the colourless, sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on your teeth. Furthermore, if you already have signs of gum disease, being pregnant may make it worse. This is why it is vital to pay more careful attention to your daily brushing and flossing routine to keep your plaque under control.

Plaque is one of the main causes of gum disease. If plaque is not removed by daily brushing and flossing, it will accumulate on the teeth and below the gum line, which can lead to gingivitis. This is the first stage of gum disease. If ignored, gingivitis can progress to a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis, in which the gums and bone that support your teeth and keep them in place is permanently damaged.

How do you know if you have gum disease?

As many as 70% of women have some form of gum disease during pregnancy, so watch out for these warning signs:

  • Your gums are tender and swollen or red.
  • Your gums bleed when you brush or floss.
  • You can’t get rid of bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth.
  • If you think you might have gum disease, visit your dentist straight away for a professional examination and cleaning.

You may also be at greater risk of decay during pregnancy. This is due to sugary food cravings and morning sickness that a lot of women experience, making you more vulnerable to developing cavities.

To try and avoid tooth decay – it’s simple, get in the habit of cleaning your teeth properly every day, and visit your dentist for regular check-ups!

Thumb-sucking habit

Thumb-sucking is the earliest and most common habit among children. Thumb-sucking is a very normal response to anxiety and stress and does not point to emotional problems in your child.

Statistics show that many children suck their thumb when they are teething and tired, relaxing, sleeping or being scolded. However, most children give up thumb-sucking by age four, when some children continue to suck their thumbs as a mean of exerting independence.

Nevertheless, many young children suck to soothe themselves and provide themselves with a sense of security and comfort. There is nothing for parents to worry about, unless the habit persists.

Only after the age of four does thumb-sucking threaten to damage children’s teeth. If, when you remove the thumb from your child’s mouth you hear a “popping”, it signals a great deal of pressure on the teeth that may cause an overbite. If the child is over four, you may want to discuss the habit with our orthodontist.

What can you do to stop the thumb-sucking?

Children often suck their thumbs when they are feeling insecure or needing comfort. Focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety and provide comfort for your child.

Avoid punishing the child; instead praise them for not sucking.

A positive reward system can be implemented that provides a small reward for not engaging the habit.

Avoid giving too much parental pressures – it can have a negative effect. Instead, keep supervision to a minimum and keep the environment happy.

For an older child, involve him or her in choosing a method of stopping.

Let your dentist offer encouragement to your child and explain what could happen to their teeth if they don’t stop sucking. A discussion between your child and a dentist might be more of a benefit that between parent and child.

Place a cotton glove on the hand or band-aid on the thumb or finger to discourage the habit

Peer pressure often works well, encourage the child to imitate “grown-up” behaviour.

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