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June 2, 2024

Tooth Fairy Tales: Navigating Your Child’s Dental Health Milestones

Seeing your child develop from a tiny being to a fully grown human is the most rewarding journey for a parent. There are so many milestones to celebrate creating so many memories to cherish. And one such great journey is created by your child’s dental development.

From your baby getting their first tooth to giving away the baby tooth to the tooth fairy to the emergence of the first adult tooth – your kid’s dental structure provides you umpteenth opportunities to make memories with your child. But it’s not all fun and frolic. This is the time to impart good dental care habits in your children to help them ward off dental diseases as well as enable them to take care of their teeth lifelong.

In this article, we reveal our two cents about your child’s dental journey.

5 Dental Milestones for Your Child

All children go through 5 dental milestones which are:

1. The beginning of teething

The first tooth appears as early as three months. Usually, the first top or bottom front teeth appear before the canines or molars. This is to help the infant with a method to break down food. Infants can start experimenting with solid foods as soon as they get their first tooth. Many babies grow several teeth at one time. While each child’s growth rate is different, most have a full set of teeth around the age of two.

Let’s break down the dental milestones during this time:

  • 3 to 13 months: the two upper and bottom front teeth (central incisors) develop
  • 8 to 16 months: the four lateral incisors, on either side of the central incisors grow
  • 13 to 19 months: the first four molars or chewing teeth develop
  • 15 to 23 months: the four canine teeth grow
  • 25 to 33 months: the four back teeth or second molars develop

2. The end of teething

Your child should have a full set of teeth by the age of three. If not, it will be a good idea to see a paediatrician. The last teeth to grow are the molars. Their growth can be particularly painful and can lead to cold, headache and fever. It can be difficult for a toddler to understand the reason for the pain and hence they may cry excessively.

The teeth growth needs to be complete as it forms the base of the adult teeth. If there are issues with the baby teeth such as overlapping or under/overbite, it is important to take them to a dentist.

3. Growth of adult teeth

Children start losing their baby teeth around the age of six. In the next few weeks, they continue to lose baby teeth and grow their adult teeth. The sequence at this stage looks like this:

  • 6 to 7 years: First adult molars appear
  • 6 to 8 years: Central incisors develop
  • 7 to 8 years: Lateral incisors grow
  • 9 to 13 years: Canine teeth and premolars appear
  • 11 to 13 years: Second molars grow

Yes, this is the time for the tooth fairy to appear. While usually baby teeth fall out naturally, sometimes they may fall out due to an impact since baby teeth are softer than adult teeth. Hence, children need to wear mouthguards while playing sports so that their face is not important.

Adult teeth grow in the place of baby teeth on their own. This growth can cause some discomfort and pain, but it will be less than the growth of baby teeth. If baby teeth do not fall off on their own, contact a dentist.

4. Braces

Most children lose all baby teeth and get all the adult teeth by the time they are 12. In case there are any spacing issues, this is the time to consider braces.

Since their bodies continue to develop during this time, having braces can help set the alignment of their tooth. The newly-gained adult teeth can be aligned straight by the time they are adults.

5. Wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth develop naturally after the growth of the rest of the adult teeth. This usually happens between the ages of 18 to 24. They can cause pain and discomfort, which may require them to be taken out. But most modern dentists don’t prefer to do so.

Wisdom teeth have a natural tendency to grow at irregular angles, which, if not addressed, can affect the alignment of the teeth.

Helping your Child During Teething

Almost all children feel uncomfortable during teething and it’s not a fun time for parents either. Pain and sleep disturbances are quite common, with parents scrambling for options to soothe their children. Usually, each tooth takes around 8 days to develop, with the discomfort starting 4 days before the eruption of a tooth.

So, how can you make this process easier for you and your child? Message the eruption site with clean finger or cloth and let them bite on a teething ring to help ease the pain and discomfort. You can chill the teething ring or the cloth to provide relief from pain. Avoid gels or amber teething necklaces as they can be a safety hazard.

For older children experiencing secondary teething, placing an ice pack or cold compress against their cheek can help provide relief from the discomfort. You can also talk to your child’s dentist to seek advice on how to help your child.

Emotionally, losing baby teeth can be a confusing time for your child, as they can be distressed from the tooth feeling wobbly and coming out. Hence, it is very important to make the phase smooth for them as a parent. This allows you to come up with innovative methods to have fun with your child. Otherwise, you can use the tried and tested story of the tooth fairy to help them calm down.

Most importantly, this is a great opportunity for you to make lots of memories with your child, so make the most of it.

How to Care for Your Child’s Teeth?

It is a common misconception that baby teeth do not need as much care as adult teeth since they will fall off in a few years anyway. But the truth can’t be further. Early teeth are vital for a child’s development and need as much care. Losing baby teeth prematurely due to tooth decay can cause the surrounding teeth to drift, thus leading to issues in the adult teeth that are growing beneath. Not to mention missing teeth can affect a child’s ability to speak and eat, which in turn, can affect the child’s self-confidence.

As the enamel layer is thinner, baby teeth are quite vulnerable to cavities and tooth decay, in fact, more than adult teeth. Hence, it is most important for children to follow good oral hygiene. Moreover, this is the time babies pick up habits that remain with them for a lifetime.

Best Oral Hygiene Habits to Teach Your Child

Brushing the Teeth

Children need to brush twice a day. Use a soft-bristled brush appropriate for their child. You will need to help your child brush until they are old enough to do it themselves. When your baby doesn’t even have any teeth, ensure to wipe their gums gently with a clean finger or cloth to keep their mouth healthy. Initially when you start using a toothbrush for your child, brush using plain water only. At about 18 months you can start using a pea-sized amount of low-fluoride children’s toothpaste. But be sure to teach your child to spit out the toothpaste to prevent fluorosis.

You can let your child brush their teeth on their own when they are four years old. At around 6 years of age, your child can switch to adult toothpaste, but it’s still essential to use a pea-sized amount and spit it out after brushing. Children can brush their teeth on their own after they are eight years old.


Start cleaning between your child’s teeth as soon as the teeth start touching together. Flossing is as important for kids as it is for adults. It takes leftover food out of those parts of teeth or gum that a toothbrush cannot reach. Leftover food in the teeth and gum can lead to the development of plaque and bacteria, thus increasing the risk of cavities and tooth decay.

If your child doesn’t like the feeling of a floss, you can contact your dentist for advice on an alternative such as a water flosser or interdental brush.

Dentist Visits

It is important for children of all ages to visit dentists for regular checkups with dentists. Children’s teeth change rapidly making them more susceptible to tooth decay.

Regular appointments with dentists can help them spot and treat issues before they cause any serious damage. Your child should have the first dentist visit around their first birthday or within 6 months of getting their first tooth. Your dentist can then suggest how often they need to go for appointments.

Food and drinks

An integral part of your child’s dental development is overall good health. What they eat is also the base for good dental hygiene. Encourage your children to eat fresh vegetables and fruits so that they can obtain the vitamins and nutrients that they need. Milk, butter, cheese and other dairy products are important sources of calcium which is essential for building and repairing tooth enamel.

While sugar is an integral part of energy for growing kids, too much sugar is harmful. Limit the amount of sugar intake by avoiding sugar-laden food and drinks. Other important contributors to tooth decay are fruit juices, soft drinks and cordials. They are laden with sugar and acids which wear down tooth enamel and are best avoided.

While we know you cannot stop your child from consuming these, it is advisable to keep an eye on the amount they are having.

Other Healthy Teeth Tips

Let’s look at a few other tips that you can follow to maintain your child’s dental health:

  • Use a clean cloth or clean fingers to wipe your infant’s gum two times a day before they get any teeth
  • Clean your baby’s teeth two times a day when they first appear
  • Teach your child to brush two times a day. It’s also important for them to pick up a proper brushing technique.
  • It’s essential to choose the right toothbrush for your child. Go for a toothbrush with a small head and soft bristles so that the bristles are soft on their teeth and gums. Replace the toothbrush every 3-4 months or as soon as it wears out.
  • Avoid giving fruit juices to babies younger than 12 months old. For children aged 1-4, limit the amount of juice to less than 4 ounces a day and for children aged 4-6 limit the amount to 8 ounces a day.
  • Always opt for 100% fruit juice to avoid giving them extra sugar.
  • Make your home smoke-free so that your children are not exposed to second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke is more likely to lead to cavities, not to mention they are generally unhealthy for children and adults.
  • Avoid letting your children go to bed with a bottle or sippy cup with milk or juice in it.

Summing it Up

Keeping your child’s teeth healthy is not difficult. The right habits and guidance can help you be on the right path of dental hygiene your entire life. Starting early and using the right tools are important. So is a balanced diet.

Get creative and make the dental journey a memorable one for your child.

Require expert advice or specialized treatment? Please arrange an appointment with our specialist.

Dr Sharifah Wade’ah Wafa Syed Saadun Tarek Wafa
Consultant Paediatric Dentist

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