Teeth are designed to last a lifetime. So why do so many people suffer during their lifetime with dental issues? Why do people lose some or all of their teeth during their lifetime?

We as health professionals have an obligation to help people become aware of how precious teeth are and how important it is to look after them properly.

Teething is an awful time for both mother and child. It is often accompanied by a:

  • Temperature
  • Nappy rash
  • Restlessness
  • Drooling mouth
  • Sore gums

Teething gel or powder will help.

Teeth begin to erupt in a particular sequence and teething is usually complete by the age of two. The first teeth to erupt are the two lower front teeth followed by the upper front teeth and then the rest follow in succession going backwards.

It is right at this early stage that one should take care of the teeth in the appropriate way. Rubbing the teeth with gauze is most effective until the child is old enough to accept a toothbrush in their mouth.

Baby bottle syndrome may occur when the child is put to bed at night with milk in the bottle. The milk promotes the development of tooth decay very rapidly. The same applies with juice. Try water, it is the best. Start off with water and the child will not even be aware of the existence of any other alternative. If you have started with milk already, then wean the child off by diluting the contents of the bottle with water, bit by bit each day so the child will not notice the change that is taking place.

Dental decay is a bacterial disease caused by the accumulation of plaque on the teeth. This provides a substrate for the normal bacteria that live in the mouth to aggregate. These bacteria metabolise the carbohydrates in the diet promoting tooth decay.

Many mothers have a tendency to lick the dummy first before placing it in the child’s mouth. This is not recommended because of the transfer of bacteria from the mother’s mouth to the child.

Brushing teeth with a young child is really a case of monkey see monkey do. If you as a parent show the child how enjoyable tooth brushing is, they will want to do the same. A children’s toothpaste with a pleasant flavour is well accepted.

The size of the toothbrush is important. Small children small brush. The child may want to brush their own teeth to show independence. That’s fine to let them do that, but as the parent you should finish the job.

Having been the parent of young children myself, I know how difficult it is to keep candy away from children. Better not to start if you can but peer pressure can be daunting.

Stay away from lollipops or anything that allows the sugar to settle on the teeth for a lengthy period of time. How about trying a carrot instead!

When should a child visit the dentist for the first time? The first visit can be at the age of 3-4 and should be fun. All that the dentist would need to do is give the child a ride in the dental chair and perhaps blow some air on the hand to tickle. Coming away from the dentist with a sticker and colouring pad is fun.

What about fluoride for a young child? Our water is fluoridated and the toothpaste is fluoridated. With effective brushing, adjunctive fluoride is probably not necessary.

Some children have large gaps between their baby teeth and in some the teeth are tightly spaced. Don’t be alarmed about the gaps. The bigger the gaps the better, because the baby teeth maintain the space for the permanent teeth to erupt from the age of 6-7.

At the same time thatyou see the permanent teeth erupting in the front of the mouth, the first permanent molars also begin to appear. These teeth are extremely vulnerable to tooth decay and need very special care and attention to maintain their health. These are the teeth that many adults lose at an early age because of inadequate attention to plaque control. Parents have a responsibility towards their children’s dental health.

The permanent teeth continue to erupt through to the age of 11-12. Whilst this happens, the deciduous (baby) teeth fallout. You may wonder what has happened to the roots of these teeth. They are resorbed as the permanent teeth make their entry into the mouth.

The anticipation of losing baby teeth and welcoming the tooth fairy is every child’s delight. How much does the fairy deposit? Well that, we leave to you.

An adjunct to monitoring the effectiveness of tooth brushing is the use of disclosing solution, which can be bought over the counter in the form of a tablet which is dissolved in the mouth and stains the plaque pink. It is then easy for the young person to see the plaque and exercise effective tooth brushing.

Many children require orthodontic treatment to assist in the development of their permanent teeth. Your dentist may refer you to an orthodontist in the early teenage years or even slightly younger.

Regular topical application of fluoride in the dental office is recommended from an early stage through adolescence. Fissure sealants are also recommended to protect the developmental grooves on the six-year-old molars.


Again, teeth are designed to last a lifetime. How wonderful it is for a child to jump out of the dentist chair and exclaim, “Look Ma, no cavities”