Healthy Mouths

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What You Need to Know About Your Teeth

Dental disease has reached staggering proportions. It is the most widespread of all human ailments, affecting 95% of all American people. Tooth decay (cavities) is five (5) times more common in children than asthma. The bacteria (germs that cause dental disease) can be passed from a parent, sibling, day care worker, or other caregiver through the sharing of spoons, forks, and drinks, so it is important that all family members and caregivers have healthy mouths too. Tooth decay is the most prevalent form of dental disease in children, but many people do not even regard poor dental health as a problem. Good dental health is the result of daily brushing and flossing, good nutritional habits and regular dental checkups.

Primary teeth (baby teeth) serve four very important functions of primary teeth. They assist in chewing food and so contribute to digestion. They contribute to facial development and expression. They preserve space for erupting permanent teeth, and aid in speaking clearly and well.

A child's first dental visit should be scheduled at 6 months of age, unless problems develop sooner.

Six-Year Molar

By the time the child enters the first grade, the six year molars have usually erupted. This is a permanent tooth and is commonly mistaken for another primary tooth since no tooth is lost before it appears. This tooth is one of the most important in a child's mouth because it helps the other permanent teeth come into their proper place. If one or more of these teeth are lost, they are gone forever and could lead to crooked teeth, unnecessary dental expense and the loss of other teeth.

 

Eruption of Teeth
Eruption and Shedding of Primary Teeth
upper and lower baby teeth
Upper Teeth
  1. A - Central Incisor - eruption at 7½ months and shedding at 7½ years.
  2. B - Lateral Incisor - eruption at 9 months and shedding at 8 years.
  3. C - Cuspid - eruption at 18 months and shedding at 11½ years.
  4. D - First Molar - eruption at 14 months and shedding at 10½ years.
  5. E - Second Molar - eruption at 24 months and shedding at 10½ years.
Lower Teeth
  1. A - Central Incisor - eruption at 7½ months and shedding at 7½ years.
  2. B - Lateral Incisor - eruption at 9 months and shedding at 8 years.
  3. C - Cuspid - eruption at 18 months and shedding at 11½ years.
  4. D - First Molar - eruption at 14 months and shedding at 10½ years.
  5. E - Second Molar - eruption at 24 months and shedding at 10½ years.
Eruption of Permanent Teeth
upper and lower adult teeth
Upper Eruption
  • 1 - Central Incisor - 7-8 years
  • 2 - Lateral Incisor - 8-9 years
  • 3 - Cuspid 11-12 years
  • 4 - First Bicuspid - 10-11 years
  • 5 - Second Bicuspid - 10-12 years
  • 6 - First Molar - 6-7 years
  • 7 - Second Molar - 12-13 years
  • 8 - Third Molar - 17-21 years
Lower Eruption
  • 1 - Central Incisor 6-7 yr.
  • 2 - Lateral Incisor 7-8 yr.
  • 3 - Cuspid 9-10 yr.
  • 4 - First Bicuspid 10-12 yr.
  • 5 - Second Bicuspid 11-12 yr.
  • 6 - First Molar 6-7 yr.
  • 7 - Second Molar 11-13 yr.
  • 8 - Third Molar 17-21 yr.

Dental Health Habits

Dental health is a family affair. The family's job is to make sure each member practices good dental health from day to day. Very early in a child's training, parents should begin to teach the principles of proper care of teeth. Parents can teach their children good dental health habits by brushing and flossing their own teeth.

Suggested Nutritional Snacks

It is possible to enjoy snacks and discourage tooth decay at the same time. All you have to do is substitute the snacks listed here for sweets. Why not sweets? When bacteria, normally found in the mouth, come in contact with fermentable sugars and starches, they feed on these sugars and produce an acid capable of dissolving enamel on teeth. For this reason, the earlier sugarless snacks are initiated and encouraged, the better chance the child has of continuing the habit and thereby having healthier teeth.

 

Suggested Nutritional Snacks
Protein Snacks hot dog Nuts-Eggs-Small Sausages-Shrimp-Peanuts-Chicken- Beef-Ham-Turkey-Cheese-Luncheon Meat-Sardines
Fruit Snacks
basket of fruit
Unsweetened Juices, Grapes-Peaches-Pears-Plums-Apples- Raspberries-Oranges-Blackberries-Pineapples-Tangerines
Vegetable Snacks
bowl of salad
Celery-Cabbage-Lettuce-Green Onion-Tomato Juice- Cauliflower-Cucumber-Green Pepper-Carrots
Other Snacks
popcorn
Popcorn-Dill Pickles-Cheese Crackers-Buttermilk-Pizza

Brushing Your Teeth

For Effective Toothbrushing:

  • Brush twice a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush.
  • Brush by placing half the bristles on the tooth and half on the gum (at a 45 degree angle).
  • Slow, short, vibrating, or back and forth (not up and down) strokes are made while the tips of the bristles remain in the same place. This is a wiggly type motion.
  • Brush in a definite order: first, outside surfaces; then, inside surfaces, followed by chewing surfaces.
  • Brush the top of the tongue to remove plaque that may accumulate there.
  • Change toothbrushes when they become worn (about every 3-4 months) or after an illness.

Flossing

Since only 60% of the plaque is removed by toothbrushing, flossing is necessary to remove the plaque from between the teeth. Unwaxed floss is the preferred kind and should be used at least once a day. Take about 18 inches of floss and wrap it around the middle finger of each hand, so that the index fingers and thumbs are free to guide the floss around the tooth and under the gumline. Gently seesaw the floss between the teeth, curve the floss against the tooth and move it up and down under the gumline. See How to Floss.

Dental Products

Dental products are only aids to the toothbrush and floss; it is the brushing and flossing that count. Toothpaste is not absolutely necessary for brushing of teeth. Many kinds of toothpaste contain fluoride, which is an important component in strengthening the teeth. Toothpaste also helps freshen breath.

Fluoride

One of the best ways to protect the teeth of adults and children is to make sure that they are exposed to fluoride. The best protection is through fluoridated drinking water because it strengthens the teeth as they are forming, leading to as much as 60% less tooth decay. This is very important in protecting children’s teeth. Fluoride is not recommended for the very young child. Ask your dentist about your fluoride needs; topical fluoride can be applied to the teeth by dentists. The dentist may also prescribe fluoride mouth rinses or tablets to be used at home. Visit the Texas Fluoride Program website at www.dshs.state.tx.us/epitox/fluoride.

Crooked Teeth

Crooked teeth may contribute to tooth decay, faulty speech, malnutrition, and mental distress due to an abnormal function and appearance. Your dentist may suggest a visit to an orthodontist for straightening crooked teeth.

Accidents Involving Teeth

A fractured tooth can be serious and a dentist should be consulted immediately. If a whole tooth is knocked out, it should be recovered. Do not clean it. Wrap it in a clean, wet cloth or place it in a cup of water or milk, and hurry to the dentist's office.

Selecting a Dentist

Ask the local dental society or dental school for the names of several qualified dentists. If there is no listing, write the American Dental Association, 211 East Chicago Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611, for information, or ask your physician or previous dentist for recommendations if you have moved from another area. To learn the background of a dentist, consult the American Dental Directory, available in most libraries.

Last updated March 10, 2011