At about 6 years of age, your child’s adult teeth start to replace their baby teeth.
This is when children enter the “ugly duckling” stage of tooth development. But, as in the case of the ugly duckling, there will be a beautiful swan at the end.
While your child is at this age and starting to lose their front teeth, it’s important to know that there are usually adult molars at the back of the mouth.
These teeth usually come through the gum without replacing a baby tooth and are often unnoticed.
As the adult teeth move into position, they cause the roots of the milk teeth to dissolve, which is why they become loose and fall out.
In this x-ray of a child’s mouth, aged about 7, you can see all the adult teeth are developing in the jaw bone, under the baby teeth.
Oral care for 6 to 13 year-olds
Children in this age group are learning independence, which should be encouraged.
However, I share the opinion of many oral health professionals that parents should still physically assist with the daily care of their children’s teeth until they are at least 9 or 10 years old.
In general, I advise parents that, if their child is not able to tie their own shoelaces, tie an apron behind their back or, in the case of girls, tie their own pony tail, then they are not old enough to brush their own teeth. Well, not properly, anyway.
Many children, with all the best intentions in the world, brush their front teeth pretty well, but seldom do a good job of cleaning their back teeth.
This is often why we see decay in these teeth, four of which are their first adult molars, at the very back.
I suggest parents brush their childrens’ teeth every day, but gradually phase in more and more time where their child “has a go” too, but under mom or dad’s supervision.
This way, the job gets done properly, but without dampening the child’s growing sense of independence.
Our children need to be taught what is a, “good job”, when it comes to caring for their teeth and it is our job to teach them.
Brushing and flossing
Teeth are round and knobbly, not flat, and yet we tend to scrub them with big, hard brushes, as if they were big, flat bathroom tiles.
Using a smaller brush allows us to clean our teeth, not just brush them.
Most of the cleaning is needed between our teeth. The smooth surfaces we tend to scrub really hard are generally not that dirty to start with, as they tend to be wiped clean by our cheeks and tongues.
And don’t forget to brush the tongue too, it also gets dirty.
For small children, we recommend a tiny amount of toothpaste on the brush – no bigger than the size of a pea.
The type of toothpaste to use is a personal choice. Toothpastes for children are generally not as minty or “burny” as adult toothpastes and they taste nicer too.
Most of the major toothpaste manufacturers make a range of toothpastes for children, often for different age groups.
The purpose of flossing is to clean between your teeth, where a toothbrush is unable to reach.
Ask your dental team to show you and your family members how to floss properly.
Start off by flossing your child’s teeth for them, until they have learnt how to floss and have the dexterity to do it for themselves.
I encourage six-monthly visits for children between the age of 6 and 13 years of age.
They should not be expected to be guardians of their adult teeth without as much help, both parental and professional, as possible.
Image credits: iStock