Pediatric Dentistry: The Mighty Milk Teeth

4 min read

Written by Dr Harini Krishnan

Dr Harini Krishnan

As a parent the most exciting and nerve wrecking phase is probably when the child’s first tooth pops out: the innocent one toothed smile is indeed a delight to witness!

As we all know, humans are bestowed with two amazing sets of dentitions. First is the milk teeth set and the second is the permanent set of teeth.

Milk teeth do not come all at once or fall off all at once. There is a natural sequence in which the milk teeth erupt and fall off for each child before the permanent teeth come in!

What are These Milk Teeth?

The Milk teeth, technically known as the primary teeth, are the first set of teeth that arrive in our mouth. These teeth begin to pop out by 6 months, and we can probably see all 20 teeth by the time a child is between 2-3 years of age.

With the eruption of teeth into the mouth, comes a certain amount of discomfort in children, what we call as TEETHING. There are a few symptoms that parents should watch out for during the teething process.

milk teeth

The child will have symptoms like pain in the region, fever, diarrhea and drooling. These symptoms are completely normal and usually subside as the tooth completely pops out.

What Can We do to Soothe the Child?

  • The simplest and effective way is to place chilled veggies on the site. Also, cooling the teething toys will also bring some comfort.
  • Various teething toys that are available can be used but with certain precautions. The first and foremost one is to NOT dip them in any sweetening agents like honey/sugar! Secondly, the toys must be cleaned thoroughly well.
  • Just in case the above soothing techniques do not work, a teething gel can also be used.
  • It is also a right time to start seeing the pediatric dentist to start the journey towards healthy teeth.

How do We Take Care of These Teeth?

It is time that we possibly move away from the myth that milk teeth don’t need their due attention! Just because they are transient does not mean they are not important!

So, When do You Start Oral Health Care for the Child?

Expert pediatric dentists at Growing Smiles, a dental care center located in Whitefield, Bengaluru which is exclusively for kids, say that one needs to start the oral care at the very beginning.

Taking care of those pearly whites begin even before they come out. All you have to do is wipe the mouth with a wet washcloth after every feed, and yes even after those late night feeds!  It is these small steps that go a long way in ensuring the whites remain white.

Once the teeth start popping out, you can add toothbrushes to your armor. Start using children’s toothpaste from the very beginning.

Here are some guidelines of using toothpaste :

  • 0-3 Years:

Just smear the toothpaste on the brush

  • 3-6 Years:

Pea size amount of toothpaste can be used

Brushing and flossing! This is one habit that we would love to see our child develop. While it’s imperative that the child brushes twice daily, it is important to brush at night right before going to bed. The most important rule however is to SWISH AND SPIT after every meal.

Just adding a tiny note on your oral health armory:

      1. A child specific toothbrush (preferably medium/soft)
      2. A child specific toothpaste
      3. Floss
      4. Floss holder (optional, but it does make life easier!)

What are the Most Common Issues that You Could Still Encounter and How to Troubleshoot?

The most common issue that plagues the teeth of children inevitably is dental decay. It usually starts  as a non-suspecting brown/black dot on the surface of the teeth, soon progressing into large cavities.

The best way to troubleshoot is to prevent them from happening at all! A good oral hygiene maintenance with regular dental visits is a sure way of keeping cavities at bay.

What Should be Done When the Cavities Occur in Spite of all the Care?

Make a visit to a pediatric dentist immediately.

Cavities found and treated at the initial stages warrant for lesser invasive procedures (vis-à-vis a filling or a medicated filling).  If cavities progress further, a root canal treatment has to be given or the affected teeth have to be extracted as a last option. A well-tailored conservative and preventive regimen given to you by your pediatric dentist will ensure your child’s teeth are well taken care of.

The second most common yet the most distressing issue of them all is an accident. Accidents are called so for a reason; they are unpredictable. Children are more so prone due to their high activity levels (yes sports included!)

Visit your pediatric dentist immediately when the child’s tooth falls out following an incident or any bleeding or discomfort in the oral cavity!

Parents who have children taking part in contact sports take note : A mouth guard is a useful appliance that can be used to prevent such dental injuries!

dentist with a happy kid

So When can the Milk Teeth Expect to Start Falling?

When left in their pristine condition, the milk teeth start to sway and give way for their successors usually by the age of 6. The mixed dentition phase of the child usually lasts between 6-12 years of age.

Any disharmony in this process could usually hamper the arrival of the permanent teeth as well. Thus an emphasis of a regular check up must be brought here! If any intervention is required, the earlier the better continues to stand strong!

Arriving at the most important question of them all, WHY ARE THE MILK TEETH SO IMPORTANT?

While most of us are at crossroads to decide how important the milk teeth are, let’s paint a picture of what could happen if you did not take care:

  • Rampant cavities in most teeth inevitably lead to excruciating pain ( as we all know dental pain is no fun at all!)
  • Impaired chewing ability hence impaired nutrition intake, thus leading to a reduced quality of life.

While parents strive hard to give the best for their child, why not do the best for  them in this domain as well!

Well to say the least this team of 20 holds the blueprint of all 32 coming ahead, and it clearly ain’t no small task 🙂

Dr Harini Krishnan,MDS-Paediatric Dentist, Growing Smiles, Bengaluru

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