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  • Writer's pictureDr Donna Hill

How to look after your children’s teeth

We’re often asked about the importance of looking after children’s teeth, after all, they all come out so why do we need to look after them? Let’s take a detailed look…

How many milk teeth are in a small child?

Babies usually start to see their first teeth at around 6 months of age. They will have 20 milk teeth which will slowly be lost as they move through to adulthood.

Milk teeth are labelled A (front tooth), B (2nd tooth), C (canine), D (premolar) & E (molar)

Teeth are labelled 1 ( front tooth), 2 ( second tooth), 3 (canine), 4 ( first premolar), 5 (second premolar), 6 ( first molar), 7 ( second molar), 8 ( wisdom teeth)

What's the purpose of baby teeth?

It’s simply a matter of size. A baby is just not big enough to cope with the size of teeth that an adult needs to eat and chew. The baby teeth are smaller and fewer than adult teeth enabling the young child to grow and then lose this first set of teeth to be replaced with a larger set.

How can an adult still have baby teeth?

Baby teeth are lost as the permanent adult teeth come through. If the permanent adult tooth is naturally missing then there is nothing to push the baby tooth out and adults can be left with baby teeth. If the baby teeth cause no problems than they will more often than not be left in the mouth, however if problems occur then they are easy to extract as the roots are much smaller.

Do all baby teeth fall out?

Baby teeth will only fall out if there is a permanent tooth behind it. In normal circumstances then all baby teeth will be lost however if there is no permanent tooth underneath then a baby tooth can be retained through to adulthood.

Is it possible to have another set of baby teeth?

No, babies/children are only have 1 set of baby teeth. If the first set of baby teeth are lost due to decay, disease or trauma then a new one will not grow and the child will have to wait until the permanent tooth comes through.

Should I use a fluoride or fluoride-free toothpaste?

Fluoride helps the re-mineralisation process of dental enamel. This is important to ensure that the enamel repairs and stays hard and tough. It has been shown that fluoride facilitates this process you should therefore always use of fluoride containing toothpaste.

The only difference for children is that you should use a child toothpaste which typically contains a lower amount of fluoride in adult toothpaste.

As an adult, why shouldn't I use children's toothpaste?

In order to keep the enamel of your tooth hard re-mineralisation is required, fluoride helps this process but there is not enough fluoride in a child toothpaste to really make a big difference. As an adult you should therefore use adult toothpaste typically with around 1500ppm ( parts per million), children’s toothpaste is typically between 600 and 1000 ppm.

Is it bad if I use a natural, fluoride-free toothpaste?

It is well recognised that the worldwide reduction in dental caries can be attributed to the widespread use of fluoride in toothpaste. If you decide to use a fluoride free toothpaste you should do this in the knowledge that you increase your risk of developing dental decay.

Should I force my toddler to use toothpaste?

It is not recommended that you force a toddler in the early stages of cleaning their teeth. Forcing a toddler may Give them anxiety over their dental health and cleaning their teeth. We recommend placing a small pea sized amount of toothpaste onto a child toothbrush and allowing them to simply play with a toothbrush and toothpaste in their mouth. It’s okay if they swallow this toothpaste.

As they get used to the feeling and taste then you can start to clean their teeth for them to ensure they have healthy teeth and gums.

When should you start brushing your child's teeth?

You should start brushing BEFORE any teeth come through. Simply massaging the gums of your baby will get them used to having a toothbrush in their mouth. As soon as teeth start coming through you should then use a pea sized amount of child fluoride containing toothpaste to clean their teeth daily.

This routine will help them prevent tooth decay, maintain good oral health and avoid gum disease which can be quite prevalent in children due to their diet of high sugar foods (which we recommend you also limit if possible).

How to prepare your child for their first visit to the dentist?

Dental care for children is extremely important and it’s good to prepare as early as you can. From a small toddler we recommend bringing your child to your appointment with you and spending a small amount of time with them sitting on your lap to get used to the chair.

Most dentists will be happy to let your toddler sit in the chair and simply ride up and down to get used to it.

Allowing your child to see you in the dentist let them know that it is safe to let someone else look in their mouth.

The key is to take small simple steps.



After qualifying in 1992 in Birmingham, Donna moved to Cornwall then helped to set up Trinity Dental Centre in 2000, with the aim of providing kind and gentle dental care. Donna's interest is in the cosmetic field and she frequently updates her knowledge in this area. Outside of work she likes to read and to cook. She is married to Rodney and they have two sons. View all posts by Dr Donna Hill .


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