Birth to 3 years
At birth a baby normally does not have any teeth. Their diet is soft and no teeth are required. The following tips are important and will help you when dealing with babies:
- Bacteria in the young babies mouth are different from those of an adult because they can only adhere to soft tissues.
- Adult bacteria occupy the mouth after the arrival of the first tooth at about 6 months.
- The initial contact with these bacteria when the tooth "breaks through" causes a small inflammation that is responable for the symptoms of teething. (increased saliva, chewing, irritation, sometimes fever)
- Bacteria on the teeth are obtained from the adult that has the most contact with the baby. i.e. mother, father, nanny, grandparent.
- Babies have a strong gag reflex to prevent them suffocating when they inhale food. This is why they start gagging when coarse food is placed in their mouth too early.
- Gagging may be a problem when trying to clean their teeth at a very early stage.
- Normally the lower two front teeth followed by the upper front teeth appear from 6 months onward.
- A baby has 10 primary teeth in the top and 10 in the bottom.
- All baby teeth should be present at about 3 years.
What are the most common problems that occur between 0 to 3 years?
- Teething: The baby is miserable and grumpy and does not feel well. Normally sysmptoms will subside once the tooth is erupted and the immune system has come to terms with the new situation. This may take 5 to 10 days.
- Baby bottle syndrome: This is a specific type of decay that normally affects the upper 6 front teeth. The teeth show dark stains and start to break apart. Eventually the baby may feel pain during eating and may even develop an abcess under the upper lip. Baby bottle caries results from babies drinking sweetened drinks or milk over long periods of time. It can also start from continous breastfeeding where small amounts of milk are ingested every half hour.
- Baby bottle syndrome does not originate from antibiotic treatment as is so often thought.
Once all primary teeth are present they stay until about 6 years of age. The first teeth to become loose and to fall out are the lower and upper front front teeth. This normally happens when a child is becoming ready for school. At the same time the first permanent molar normally breaks through behind the last primary molar at the back of the mouth.
It is important to make sure that these molars are well cared for and are sealed to prevent early decay. These are permanent teeth and will not be replaced naturally.