Adult teeth start developing inside children’s jawbones after birth. After a baby tooth falls out, an adult permanent tooth takes its place.
From 6-12 years, children have a mixture of adult and baby teeth. By the age of 12, most children have all their adult teeth except for their third molars (wisdom teeth). The baby molars fall out at around 12 years.
When adult teeth are coming through: some tips
Your child might find chewing is more difficult when his teeth are loose or missing, but he still needs to eat healthy foods.
It’s important to keep up your child’s teeth-brushing routine, taking extra care around the loose teeth or sensitive areas. But let loose teeth fall out on their own. If you try to pull out a tooth before it’s ready to fall out, it can snap. This can cause pain and infection.
Sometimes an adult tooth will come through before the baby tooth has fallen out. If the baby tooth hasn’t fallen out within 2-3 months, see your dentist.
It’s important to look after your child’s baby teeth. These teeth have a big job to do – they guide your child’s adult teeth into the right spot. If your child loses her baby teeth too early, the adult teeth might not come through in the right spots. If this happens, your child could need treatment from an orthodontist
Dental care: keeping your child’s teeth clean
Brushing teeth is important for keeping teeth clean, as well as for preventing bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease. At this age, your child probably doesn’t need your help to clean his teeth anymore. But if he ever needs a reminder, here are the basic steps:
- Use a pea-sized amount of regular adult fluoride toothpaste.
- Aim the toothbrush at a 45° angle to the gum line.
- Use a gentle circular motion.
- Repeat on the inside surfaces.
- Use a light backwards and forwards motion on the chewing surfaces.
- Spit out the toothpaste as you clean. There’s no need to rinse with water, though. Any leftover fluoride toothpaste helps to build strong, healthy teeth.
Ask your dentist about whether and how often your child needs to floss. If your child needs to floss, your dentist can show you and your child the correct flossing technique.
Choosing a toothbrush
There are so many toothbrushes to choose from that it can get pretty confusing. When you and your child are choosing a toothbrush, you can look for the following:
- Soft bristles: these won’t damage your child’s gums or tooth enamel.
- A long handle: this will help your child reach all his teeth.
- A small head: this will make it easy for your child move the toothbrush around her mouth.
Electric toothbrushes are just as good as non-electric toothbrushes. They’re particularly useful if your child has poor hand control.
No matter what toothbrush your child uses, it’s a good idea to change it when the bristles start to look worn out and shaggy.
Toothpaste and fluoride
At this age, your child can use regular adult fluoride toothpaste.
Fluoride is a mineral that helps build strong teeth and bones and prevent tooth decay. If children take in too much fluoride, it can cause fluorosis, which is a build-up of white marks on the teeth. Although this affects the way teeth look, it doesn’t usually affect health.
Most tap water in Australia has added fluoride. Fluoride is safe and helps teeth grow strong. It works best when you get it in very small amounts throughout the day in fluoridated tap water, foods and drinks containing fluoride, and fluoride toothpaste.
Dentists might prescribe fluoride mouth rinse for some children who are at high risk of developing tooth decay.
Your dentist might recommend dental sealants for your child.
Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings that bond to the chewing surfaces of teeth (where most cavities in children are found). These sealants stop plaque build-up in the grooves of teeth and help stop tooth decay. Applying the sealants is simple and quick, with no pain and very little discomfort for your child.
Sealants don’t stay on your child’s teeth forever. Your dentist will check them regularly. They might sometimes need fixing or reapplying.
If you’re interested in dental sealants for your child, speak to your dentist.
Visiting the dentist
Everyone has different dental needs and risks. These different needs will affect how often your child needs to visit the dentist. This is something you can talk about with your dentist.
Your child might not always see a dentist. Many other oral health professionals are fully qualified to give you advice and work on your child’s teeth, depending on your child’s needs. They include dental therapists, dental hygienists and oral health therapists.
Dental health care in Australia
Dental care for children is often free in the public dental system, up to a certain age. Contact your local public dental provider for details.
There are private dental clinics all over Australia. You’ll have to pay for your appointments, but people with private health insurance might get some money back from their private health fund.