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Looking after milk teeth

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

What to expect and when

Babies are occasionally born with teeth already showing, but they usually cut their first one at around the age of six months.

Some children may be early teethers, while others will remain gummy until the age of one year or more. But whenever it pokes through, the first tooth tends to appear in the middle of the lower jaw.

The full set of 20 milk teeth will probably be in place by the time your child is around two and a half years old.

Permanent teeth start to appear around the age of six, with front teeth the first to come through. Molars will appear behind the primary teeth rather than replacing them.

Dental hygiene

It's never too early to start a good dental hygiene routine, so begin brushing twice a day as soon as your baby's first tiny teeth become visible.

Apply a minute smear of toothpaste to a small-headed brush with soft nylon bristles for babies, increasing this to a pea-sized amount for children aged five and over.

Use your finger to apply the toothpaste if you're nervous about using a brush. As it's important to accustom your child to the feel of a toothbrush, switch to a brush as soon as possible.

Make sure your toothpaste is specially designed for children, containing a reduced level of fluoride, and encourage your child to spit after brushing.

Dentists recommend not rinsing after toothpaste has been applied, as doing so reduces the benefits of fluoride.

Children should be starting to brush their own teeth by the age of four, but continue to supervise them until you're sure they can do it thoroughly. This is normally around the age of seven or eight.

Reluctant brushers

Some toddlers love to clean their own teeth, but for others it will unfortunately become a battle. Stick to your guns - toothcare is not negotiable. It has to be done, whether your child likes it or not.

Hopefully the days of having to pin your child down while you scrub their teeth will quickly pass, once he realises this is one chore that is not going to go away.

It might be worth trying a novelty toothbrush. Some play tunes or feature favourite characters. Others come with a built-in timer that beeps once you have brushed for the requisite two minutes.

Some parents report success after making up a story about a little mouse or other creature that lives inside your child's mouth and wants to have his cave cleaned out.

Whatever you resort to, remember, it has got to be better than dragging a child to the dentist for a mouthful of fillings.

Visiting the dentist

Find yourself a child-friendly dentist and start making regular visits as early as possible. If you are a nervous patient yourself, try not to let it show.

Initially, your child may just enjoy a ride in the chair, but encourage frequent check-ups as soon as all your child's milk teeth are through. This will get them accustomed to the equipment, smells and feeling of being in the surgery and hopefully reassure them that a trip to the dentist is really no big deal.

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