Children's Oral Health: Each Age Requires Specific Care

Paying attention to your children's oral hygiene will allow you to take care of their specific needs according to their age. In this article, we'll talk about how their teeth change during childhood, and what you should do in order to help them take care of it.
Children's Oral Health: Each Age Requires Specific Care

Last update: 07 September, 2021

Maintaining good oral health since the day children are born is essential to promote the correct development and functioning of the oral cavity. In order to do this, it’s important to take care of your children’s oral health and different needs according to their age.

As your children grow, their mouths suffer from different changes, and it’ll be your responsibility to take care of the different needs they may have. If you take into account these changes and the possible problems they may have, you’ll be able to act immediately, whenever necessary. Besides, you’ll be able to take care of risk factors and prevent different complications or pathologies.

During their different stages of development, children should maintain good oral health. This way, they’ll avoid many problems that are quite frequent during childhood. Moreover, there are certain things they should do according to the different stages of oral development. Next, we’ll tell you how to take care of your children’s oral health in every stage of development.

Oral development in children

From the moment of birth and throughout their whole lives, people’s bodies go through many changes. In the case of the oral cavity, these changes mainly occur during childhood, and they occur in three different periods:

  • From the moment of birth until children are 2 years old: Through their mouths, children get in touch with the outside world. They use them to eat, to relate to others, and to feel pleasure. During this period, their primary teeth gradually come in.
  • Between 2 and 6 years old: During this stage, children already have all their primary teeth. Maxillary teeth are still growing.
  • Between 6 and 12 years old: At this point, primary teeth start being replaced by permanent teeth. This is the mixed dentition stage, when it’s possible to find both temporary and permanent teeth in the mouth. At this stage, the maxillary bones are still growing.
Parent brushing baby's teeth.

Remember that these are approximate ages, as each child grows at their own rhythm.

From primary to permanent teeth

As we’ve mentioned before, permanent teeth start erupting when children are between 5 and 6 years old. In some cases, primary teeth loosen and fall out, and permanent teeth replace them.

Besides, during this stage permanent, molars start coming in. However, these teeth don’t replace other teeth. This is because they’re located at the back of the mouth. The first permanent molar erupts when children are 6 years old, and the last one erupts by the time they turn 12.

Primary teeth perform many functions in the mouth. They not only save space for permanent teeth, but they also intervene in chewing, swallowing, talking, and children’s physical appearance.

Children’s oral health: Common problems children can avoid

Maintaining good oral health since the day children are born is essential to promoting the correct development and functioning of the oral cavity. In addition, it enables us to prevent the most frequent pathologies, such as the following:

Dental cavities

Dental cavities are very frequent during childhood. They’re the destruction of the tooth’s hard tissue, caused by the acids bacteria produce in the mouth when metabolizing carbohydrates. When microorganisms repeat this activity, they destroy the minerals from the teeth.

Cavities first appear as a white stain, which then becomes darker. Then, holes appear in the enamel, which may spread to the dentine and even affect the pulp.

Furthermore, in the case of children, this pathology advances quickly, damaging kids’ teeth and, sometimes, they may even lose them. As a result, thenfunctions of the mouth are affected, and children may suffer from pain and infections. In order to avoid this, it’s important to control risk factors:

  • Bacteria: Through proper oral hygiene, it’s possible to eliminate bacterial plaque. At the same time, it’s important to avoid transmitting microorganisms to our children through our saliva, by blowing on their food, trying it first, or by putting their pacifiers or silverware in our mouths.
  • Diet: Try to avoid sugar products. And, control the frequency in which your children consume cariogenic foods, such as sodas, sweets, or pastries.
Boy with cavities.

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums due to the accumulation of bacteria in the teeth. The gingival tissue becomes swollen, red, sensitive, and it bleeds easily. The most important measure to take in order to prevent this is maintaining good oral hygiene.

Other possible problems

There are other problems that may affect children’s oral health according to their age. These are other possible problems children may face:

  • Dental trauma: Children tend to injure their teeth quite often. This usually begins when they start walking, or when they play games or sports. These accidents may affect primary or permanent teeth. Besides, the dental crown may break in parts or entirely, loosen, or fall out. If any of these things happen, you should go to the dentist immediately.
  • Malocclusion: Bite problems or abnormal alignment of the teeth are very common situations among children. This could be due to hereditary problems or the effect of harmful habits. Furthermore, this could happen when children lose their primary teeth too quickly. Visiting the dentist frequently is a way to detect possible occlusion problems and treat them in time.

Tips to take care of your children’s oral health according to their age

Depending on the age of your children, they’ll have different needs regarding their oral health care. Next, we’ll talk about some important aspects you should take into account in order to take good care of your children’s oral health.

From 0 to 2 years old

When children are between 0 and 2 years old, parents are in charge of their children’s oral health care. Therefore, from the day kids are born, you should clean their mouths, even before they start teething. You should do it by rubbing your finger on their gum and tongue using a wet cloth.

Once their primary teeth start growing in, you should brush their teeth. In order to do this, use a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. Remember to use a small amount of toothpaste and clean all the parts of the mouth, including the gums and tongue.

As for a child’s diet, breastmilk will be the best choice until they’re 6 months old. Then, you can start adding solid food to their diet. The food you give them should be varied, healthy and it should have different textures, in order to stimulate chewing. 

In case babies use a bottle, don’t let them lie back while drinking from it. Furthermore, don’t add sugar to their milk, and never soak their pacifier in sweet liquids. At the same time, you shouldn’t clean them with your own saliva, nor should you blow on or try their food.

During this period, babies start teething. Giving them teethers or cold massages can be quite useful to alleviate the pain they may feel when teething. Besides, before they’re 1 year old, you should visit the pediatric dentist. This is because the specialist will examine your baby’s mouth and they’ll give you some tips on how to take care of your baby’s oral health.

From 2 to 6 years old

When children are between 2 and 6 years old, all primary teeth finish erupting. Therefore, it’s very important to take really good care of them. Even though adults continue to be responsible for their children’s oral hygiene, children can play and practice, in order to adopt the habit. 

In order to do this, you should use a small toothbrush with soft bristles, which will allow you to clean all the parts of the teeth. Once babies learn to spit, you can start using more fluoride toothpaste (when they’re 3 years old). Remember that you should brush their teeth at least twice a day, for 2 minutes each time.

During this time, you should pay attention to certain habits, such as finger sucking, the use of pacifiers or bottles, nail biting, mouth breathing, or atypical swallowing. If these habits keep happening after they’re 2 years old, their teeth may shift and they’ll end up having malocclusion problems. In order to prevent this, it’ll be a good idea to visit the pediatric dentist every 6 months.

From 6 to 12 years old

Visiting the pediatric dentist.

When children are between 6 and 12 years old, their primary teeth start falling out, and permanent teeth start growing. This process usually ends when they’re 12 years old. During this period, both primary and permanent teeth are in the mouth and you should take care of all of them.

In order to prevent bacterial plaque, it’s important to continue brushing their teeth 3 times a day, using fluoride toothpaste. By this time, children can start adopting the habit, and adults can still monitor them. Remember they must do it properly, cleaning all the parts of the mouth.

Now could be a good time to start using floss. Children should practice this technique in order to master the use of floss. They can even use accessories if they need to.

Visiting the pediatric dentist every 6 months is still essential. In order to prevent cavities, fluoride topication and dental sealants can be quite useful.

Sometimes, orthodontic treatments are necessary during this period. This is why it’s important to identify possible chewing problems in time. In fact, orthodontic treatment is much more effective during this period.

Parents are responsible for their children’s oral health

Taking good care of children’s oral health is essential to promote a good functioning of the mouth when chewing, eating, talking, and smiling. Pay attention to your children’s oral health according to their age, and focus on their specific needs. Adults are responsible for their children’s oral health. If you want your children to have a healthy oral cavity, take good care of it.

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