It can be tricky to determine just how much dental care your child needs. This is why it’s important to track the growth and formation of your child’s teeth throughout their childhood.
The great thing is you can begin tracking this from the moment your child starts teething. While this might seem too early, the earlier you start tracking, the easier it is to notice any potential problems.
While you don’t have to check every day, make a routine out of checking your child’s teeth regularly, even if they’re old enough to start seeing their dentist.
Why Tracking Matters
Dental health isn’t just the responsibility of your child’s dentist. However, it’s not uncommon for parents or guardians to only focus on brushing and flossing versus checking the growth and formation. Of course, proper dental hygiene is always a great start to helping your child have healthy teeth and gums for life.
Teeth come in in stages, but sometimes this doesn’t always happen the way it should. For instance, children typically have four to six teeth by the time they turn one. By the time they turn three, they should have all 20 primary baby teeth.
If you’re tracking this and notice a tooth or even several teeth missing, this could indicate a problem. A tooth may not be pushing through the gum correctly and could result in pain for your little one if it’s not checked.
Of course, tracking doesn’t stop once the baby teeth are gradually replaced by their permanent adult teeth. This is something you must continue to do to look for issues, such as:
- Missing teeth
- Cracked or broken teeth
- Sudden issues with bad breath – can indicate an infection
- Crooked teeth pushing into the jaw/cheeks
- Teeth coming in too low, such as below the gumline
- Discoloration – can indicate improper or infrequent brushing
Beginning Dental Care
A good time to start tracking the growth and formation of your child’s teeth is during their regular dental care. Even before their first tooth appears, your baby needs dental care. Just running a damp cloth over the gums works. This allows you to feel for teeth they may be starting to break through the gums. Keep in mind that some babies are born with one or more teeth, called natal teeth.
These are primary, or baby teeth, and should be kept. However, if they interfere with feeding, they may need to be extracted early.
Once teeth appear, you can switch to an infant toothbrush and toothpaste to keep their new teeth clean. Checking their teeth daily allows you to check for any possible issues. Bright white spots or discoloration can be a sign of a cavity forming. If you notice this, you should schedule a dental visit to prevent the cavity from causing other issues, such as:
- Damage to the gum
- Cracks in the tooth
Another issue to look for is bottle mouth. This condition is the wearing away of enamel from drinking milk and juice, which stay on the teeth for hours at a time. Discolored and/or pitted front teeth are common symptoms. This can result in cavities, leading to the front teeth needing to be removed.
It’s important to visit a dentist that specialises in children’s teeth since younger children may be nervous or scared during their first visit.
Continuing Tracking Your Child’s Teeth
Once your child is old enough to start brushing their own teeth and all primary teeth have emerged, you likely won’t be able to check them daily as you did when they were infants and toddlers. However, this doesn’t mean you should stop tracking your child’s teeth.
By the time they’re six, their permanent, or adult, teeth may start to come in. It’s a good idea to keep a check on your child’s teeth regularly to ensure their loosening baby teeth are causing any issues. For instance, a loose tooth that keeps scraping the inside of the jaw could cause an infection. However, most baby teeth do come out without much of an issue.
The biggest thing to track during this period is the emergence of the permanent teeth. This is typically the time when you’ll first start to notice any issues with tooth alignment. Just because the primary teeth are straight doesn’t mean the permanent teeth will be too.
Regular dental visits are important throughout your child’s life. While you should check your child’s teeth at least a few times a month or more, dentists are trained to look for subtle signs of oral problems. While some may be obvious to you, you might not notice a small cavity on the back of a tooth, for instance.
Listening To Your Child
Talk to your child about the development of their teeth. Sometimes, a child might not realize anything is wrong, especially if they’re still losing their baby teeth. However, tell them to notify you immediately if they notice any of the following:
- Pain (some pain is normal as permanent teeth start to push through)
- Bleeding along the gumline (common when they lose a baby tooth, though)
Since it’s their mouth, they’ll likely notice early signs of oral issues before you, such as sensitivity and pain. Both of these can signal issues with cavities or an alignment issue.
Seeing An Orthodontist
As your child’s teeth transition to adult teeth, usually between 10-12, you may start to notice issues, such as:
- Crooked teeth
- Problems chewing
- Issues with their speech
- Pain in the jaw or along the gumline
All of these are signs it’s time to talk with an orthodontist. It’s not uncommon for permanent teeth to come in at various angles or for the mouth not to be large enough to accommodate all of the new teeth. This is especially true in the late teens to the early twenties when the wisdom teeth start to come in.
The early you start the right orthodontics treatment, the sooner your child will have straighter teeth. Of course, it’s also vital to resolve jaw alignment and bite issues as soon as possible as both can result in difficulty eating and speaking.
Tracking the growth and formation of your child’s teeth throughout their childhood and teen years helps you stay on top of their dental health. Need to speak with an orthodontist about growth and formation issues? Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.