A baby’s primary teeth are as important to them as their permanent teeth. Baby or primary teeth help a young child to learn to chew and speak properly, and importantly, these teeth reserve the correct space in a child’s gums for the eruption of their permanent teeth when they are older.
Baby or primary teeth start to form in the jawbone before birth. A baby’s first primary tooth usually erupts at about six months of age but this can occur as early as birth or as late as the child’s first birthday. The average child has a full set of 20 primary teeth by the age of two to three years. The first visit to the dentist should be within six months of the eruption of the first tooth or by the child’s first birthday.
The appearance of the primary teeth is commonly called ‘teething’ and many babies experience discomfort during this period.
It is very important not to ignore symptoms such as fever and diarrhoea. If these symptoms appear, it is recommended that they are treated as unrelated symptoms to teething and medical advice should be sought to eliminate other causes.
Signs and symptoms may appear and disappear over several days. Ask your dentist or pharmacist for advice before using any pain reliever specifically created for babies and toddlers. Never give aspirin to a baby or young child.
Thumb sucking is a natural reflex in babies and young children. Most children lose interest in thumb sucking and dummies at two to four years.
Children who continue to suck their thumb or fingers after the permanent teeth have appeared risk developing crooked teeth, particularly if the sucking is forceful or frequent. Also, speech defects may arise, especially with the “s” and “th” sounds.
Gently encourage your child to give up thumb sucking. See your dentist for advice if your child cannot stop thumb sucking by the end of the first year at school. In rare cases, referral to a child psychologist may be helpful.
For parents and primary carers of babies, it’s really important to ensure that you maintain your own oral health. Dental decay is actually a transmissible disease, meaning one person can transmit the bacteria responsible to another person.
Research has found that the overgrowth of bacteria, specifically Streptococcus mutans, that can cause dental decay in a parent’s mouth, can be transferred to the mouth of a newborn baby, making the child more susceptible to dental decay when teeth erupt.