WE ASK THE EXPERT : DENTAL HEALTH FOR KIDS
As parents we want the best for our child, so that they can grow up happy and healthy. Good dental health from young is not only a necessity for a lifelong beautiful smile, but also for our child’s general health and wellbeing.
We chat to Paediatric Dental Specialist, Dr Terry Teo at The Dental Studio and ask him what is key to dental health for kids.
You know that children grow baby teeth that eventually fall out, to be replaced by adult teeth. Consequently, these teeth may not be so important. However, baby teeth are essential for chewing, and for guiding the adult teeth into their correct place.
In Singapore, 26% of all 3-4 year old children have dental decay of their baby teeth, or Early Childhood Caries (ECC). This percentage increases to 50% by age 6, making ECC the most prevalent disease of childhood. Left untreated, decayed teeth may cause pain, loss of appetite, loss of sleep and loss of concentration in your growing child. Although decayed baby teeth do eventually drop out, this may only occur as late as age 10 or 11.
Do you also know that the second most common dental problem in children is accidental traumatic injuries to their teeth? Dental trauma happens most in children around the ages of 2 (when they start walking and running) and 9 (when they start having increased participation in social activities like sports). Accidental injuries to the baby teeth may adversely affect the growing adult teeth under them, and certain risk factors may predispose children to a higher chance of accidental trauma.
Finally, did you know that crooked adult teeth can be predicted from as young as 6 years of age, and that in certain instances, early correction from as young as age 8 is desirable? Within this transitional period of growth and the mixed dentition, interceptive orthodontic treatment is possible to correct problems early and prevent them from worsening later.
In this bi-monthly column, Dr. Teo will be providing advice and tips on how to avoid thee common dental problems of childhood, and more. He will also be discussing topics such as dental fear in children, oral hygiene tips, and what are the best foods for healthy teeth and gums. Below is his first discussion topic on your child’s baby or primary teeth.
The Primary Teeth
Everyone has two sets of teeth: the baby teeth, also known as primary or deciduous teeth, and the permanent teeth. In total, there are 20 primary teeth and 32 permanent teeth.
The first primary tooth (the lower central incisor) erupts around 6 months of age. This is followed by the upper incisors, then all the other primary teeth up till your child’s second birthday. At around age two, the second primary molar will erupt to complete the set of 20 baby teeth. It is very common for healthy children to have delayed eruptions of these primary teeth. Sometimes, the first tooth only erupts at the first birthday. Parents should thus be aware that all subsequent teeth will be delayed as well, so that such a child may only complete his eruption by age 3. This is also normal, and not due to any nutritional or developmental deficiency.
During early childhood, your child will need her baby teeth as she learns how to eat and speak, thus it is important to care for these teeth. Just as important, the primary teeth maintain the space in their growing mouth and jaws to accommodate and guide the proper eruption of the permanent teeth. Early loss of primary teeth may result in loss of space and increased risk of crowding problems later in the permanent dentition.
At around age 6, the lower primary incisor will exfoliate as the first permanent incisor erupts, signalling the onset of the mixed dentition. In the next few years, baby teeth will fall out as permanent ones erupt, eventually leading to the full set of permanent teeth by age 12. Generally, children need their primary teeth for the first decade of their lives, so proper care of these teeth is essential to overall health and development.
With thanks, and complete attribution, to Dr Terry Teo, Paediatric Dental Specialist at The Dental Studio, a Singapore Medical Group clinic
Location: The Dental Studio
290 Orchard Road, Paragon #13-01 to 06
(Lifts via Lobby 2) Singapore 238859
Tel: 6836 0050
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday, 9am to 6pm (Dr Terry Teo is off on Mondays and Tuesdays)