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It’s All About Baby Teeth

Your baby’s first teeth are just as important as their permanent teeth.  These tiny teeth help your baby chew and speak and they hold space in the gums for the permanent teeth.

These ‘baby teeth’, or ‘primary teeth’ start forming inside the gums before birth, and usually erupt at around 6 months old, but they can erupt a lot earlier or later than this too.  Usually by about 2-3 years of age, a toddler will have all 20 primary teeth.

Your baby’s first dental visit should be at about 12 months, so we can have a look at the tooth eruption progress, and check on oral hygiene, and diet, and answer any questions you might have.  Even if we don’t get a look inside, this first visit is a very important one.

Teething Truths

Teething’ refers to the eruption of baby teeth, which is usually accompanied by some degree of discomfort and irritability.  Some signs and symptoms include:

  • Frequent crying and crankiness
  • A mild fever
  • Reddened cheeks and drooling
  • Mild diarrhoea
  • Sucking or gnawing on toys or anything!
  • Pulling the ear on the same side as the erupting tooth

To help relieve teething discomfort, some recommendations include:

  • Wash your hands then gently rub baby’s gums with your finger
  • Use a fridge chilled teething ring for baby to chew on or wet washcloth to bite
  • Non-sweetened rusks
  • NEVER give aspirin to a baby or child
  • Speak to a pharmacist before using any pain relief medications for babies

What about thumb sucking?

Thumb sucking is a natural reflex in babies and toddlers, and most lose interest in it by the time they are 2 to 4 years old.

However, children who continue to suck their thumb or fingers after their permanent teeth have erupted can develop quite crooked teeth and even jaw development changes which can cause speech defects also.

Some suggestions to help stop thumb sucking include:

  • Wrap strapping tape around the digit that is sucked
  • Nail biting liquid
  • Chili!

Are Dummies Any Better?

If dummies are allowed to be used into the permanent teeth stage, then they will have the same outcome as prolonged sucking of thumbs and fingers.

However, the best thing about a dummy is that it can be removed forever before 12 months ideally, and the todd

ler easily forgets about it in a few days.  Even at 2 to 4 years old, a dummy can be ‘given to Santa’ or ‘given to the Easter Bunny’ or even ‘given to the rubbish truck!’ Then they are gone forever, and the toddler can then move on.

Good Habits for Life, Good Teeth for Life

Decay is just as much a risk in babies and toddlers as in children and adults, so caring for your baby’s teeth needs to begin at birth.  To make sure your child has healthy teeth for life, make sure you establish good oral hygiene habits early.

How to Brush Your Baby’s Teeth

Baby’s very first teeth can be wiped with a cloth, or brushed with a special toothbrush for babies which has a very small head and rounded bristles to gently massage their teeth and gums.  This should be done once a day until 18 months old, with no toothpaste, just fluoridated tap water.  The bath is often a fun place for this.

Once your toddler is about 2 years old, twice a day brushing should be introduced, as well as special age appropriate low-fluoride toothpaste. Just a smear is all you need.

Only use toothpaste once your little one can spit out.  Also make sure all toothpaste is stored out of reach of small children, as some love the taste, and will eat it.  This will cause fluorosis in the secondary teeth which can be quite disfiguring.

Teaching Toddlers to Brush

Teaching toddlers to brush can be very challenging!  Many are fiercely independent. But at about 4 to 5 years old, a team approach is often needed, combining the efforts of both you and your little one. Maybe your child ‘starts’ and you ’finish’, or maybe they brush in the morning and you brush each night.  Children do not have the dexterity or skills to properly clean their own teeth until about 8 years of age.

Position yourself behind your child, facing the bathroom sink/mirror with their head tilted back onto your body so you can see into their mouth.

  • Ensure you have an age appropriate sized toothbrush that is not too big
  • Only a smear of toothpaste
  • Brush gently from the gums onto the teeth always
  • Avoid side to side scrubbing as it damages teeth and gums
  • Start on the front surfaces at the back on one side, and slowly work around to the other side
  • Then do the same on the inside surfaces by tilting the toothbrush
  • Then do little circles across the chewing/grinding surfaces
  • Now repeat for the other arch of teeth
  • It helps to ask your child to let their lips ‘go floppy’, as children often tighten their mouth which makes brushing very difficult
  • Brushing should take 2 minutes

Disclosing Pink Fun

Disclosing tablets or liquid are a fun way to help you see how you are going with your brushing technique.  When you chew them, they stain plaque that is left on your teeth bright pink!

We use them to show our patients where plaque lurks. We also send them home with our patients so they can test themselves, and sometimes have competitions with their brothers and sisters and parents to see who cleans their teeth the best!

Your dentist or chemist will always have them.

When to start flossing?

As soon as your little one has 2 teeth together, they need to floss.  However it is usually more practical to begin at about two and a half.  Flossing is necessary because bacteria that cause tooth decay hide between teeth and cannot be brushed away, so must be removed by floss to avoid decay, and keep gums healthy.

  • Flossing must be done gently or it will hurt.
  • Floss up and down to the gum between all teeth.
  • Try either conventional floss, or disposable flossers which are often easier.

Trouble Shooting

 Resistance to teeth cleaning? Struggling to sit still for 2 minutes or at all? Flossing….are you kidding!!

  • Try an electric toothbrush. This adds a bit of fun, and some have music!
  • Try in the bath and add distractions of other toys while you brush. It works!
  • Sing nursery rhymes or play a favourite song while you help with brushing
  • Offer a reward for every successful 2 minute brushing session
  • Let your child ‘start’ the brushing and you ‘finish’ it
  • Try to make brushing and flossing as much fun as possible, and avoid any negative association
  • Set a good example and brush your teeth with them

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We’re happy to see your kids anytime, even if you’re not!

We have a lot of fun with children and families. It’s not unusual to have siblings racing in and pushing one another aside to be first in the dental chair! We have chair rides, and air pistol fights before getting down to counting teeth and inspecting or teaching brushing and flossing techniques. We love to hear stories of the day, and great school sporting moments! Another big hit is our ‘Special Box’ that is full of goodies (non edible!) that kids can choose one from at the end of their visit. No one lets us forget to get out the “Special Box”!

We also have a Dobson Dental Hero program for our patients who have made a special effort dentally. We have a Hero Wall, and a Facebook page where they are displayed for all to admire!

A frequently asked question is ‘When do I bring my little one in for their first dental visit?’ Well, we love to see little ones from about 12 months. We pop them on parents’ laps and have a ride in the chair. If we can count teeth, and see teeth, then good. If not, then the little one has had a positive new experience anyway. Either way, we discuss with the parents the diet and brushing techniques. Then every 6 months we do it again. We don’t usually charge for these visits until about 3 years of age. These visits can also be fun with older siblings in the room who have gone earlier and modelled the correct behaviour. Then the little one is very keen to copy. The bigger children usually find it fun seeing their small sibling trying hard to please too. For more information on babies teeth and dental visits go to our Babies and Children Dental Care webpage.

For anxious children, we just work and move much more slowly. We chat a lot more about their life and friends and family, and gradually develop a rapport over time. There can be no rush when anxiety is in the room! See our page on Nervous/ Anxious Patients for more information.

We pride ourselves on being a Family Practice. We have many families who are still coming through our doors 42 years, and several generations later! We love seeing children come through our doors, and exclaiming at how tall they have grown since we saw them 6 months ago! It is also delightful when those children you saw when they were 12, now bring in their children.


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Patients sometimes ask us to explain why fluoride is so important for oral health from childhood through to adulthood. The patients at Dobson Dental are exposed to different amounts of fluoride during their lifetime. We’ve produced a useful guide about the role fluoride plays during various developmental life stages and more importantly where to get it!

The Importance of Fluoride for Kids & Toddlers

Fluoride is essential for young children as it reinforces the enamel even before the teeth break through their gums. The hard surface of tooth enamel is what resists tooth decay. By reinforcing the enamel on your children’s teeth with fluoride it will be easier to prevent tooth decay. This is called a systemic benefit because the fluoride is ingested from foods, beverages and dietary supplements. Frequent exposure to fluoride will minimise the damage caused by occasional treats. Topical fluoride applications, such as fluoride gels are routine procedures for most children during their dental checkup appointments.

As soon as your baby’s first tooth appears, it’s at risk of decay. That’s why Dobson Dental recommend parents begin cleaning their baby’s mouth as soon as they come home from the hospital by wiping their gums with a wet washcloth. This is an easy way to introduce fluoridated water to your baby’s teeth before they begin drinking themselves.

When helping your child brush their teeth twice daily, use a smear (no larger than a grain of rice) of fluoride toothpaste on children younger than 3 years of age. For children from 3 to 6 years use a pea sized portion of fluoride toothpaste. If kids swallow toothpaste regularly it can lead to fluorosis which appears as white flecks on the teeth. Therefore, it is important to use age appropriate toothpaste and teach your child to spit out toothpaste after brushing.

Once your child’s teeth do break through their gums, fluoride helps redemineralise tooth enamel (which strengthens it) and reverses early tooth decay. The main topical fluoride application method is brushing with fluoridated toothpaste. Plus, you can increase your child’s fluoride intake by actively monitoring their diet. Certain foods and beverages already contain fluoride quantities which transfer into the salvia upon consumption. The saliva helps coat the teeth with additional fluoride which helps repair weakened enamel.

Dentists can treat your childs fluoride deficiency

Tweens & Fluoride

Although tooth decay is preventable, it is still one of the most predominant chronic conditions affecting children in Victoria! An alarming percentage of Australian children aged 5-10 are living with untreated tooth decay. As children approach their teenage years, their primary teeth are replaced with a permanent set for life. Parents must be aware of the consequences of poor dental hygiene both for their financial and long term health. Tooth decay is more likely during your child’s teenage years particularly from the ages of 14 -17 years. This is because of lifestyle factors as they approach adulthood. With homework, after school jobs, sporting commitments, and increased social activities teenagers often start to feel time poor. Consequently, they tend to make quick and easy food choices such as pre-packaged snacks which are usually high in sugar.  Teens that brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste toothbrush plus dental floss after meals can reduce the risk of developing tooth decay. Patient dental counselling with Dobson Dental can be provided to educate teens on proper brushing techniques, flossing and foods that are more nutritious for dental health.

Permanent Adult Teeth

New research shows that not only developing children benefit from fluoride but in fact teeth of all ages! Experts used to think that fluoride worked mainly by strengthening teeth while they were still developing. This meant that children were the focus of fluoridation efforts in the past. However, recent studies now demonstrate the use of topical fluoride such as that found in toothpaste, mouth rinses and fluoride supplements actually help in the fight against decay. More importantly if you’re an adult who grew up without fluoridated water in a region like South East Queensland, prior to 2008, for example – don’t worry! Speak to Dobson Dental about fluoride treatments or supplements.

Fluoride Facts

Fluoride is a natural mineral that is discovered in many foods and drinking water in Australia.

Fluoride prevents tooth decay by:

  • Changing the structure of the developing enamel in children before the age of 6, making teeth more resilient to acid attack.
  • Establishing an environment where the enamel is more resistant to decay.
  • Reducing the presence of bacteria which results in plaque producing acid.

These processes are defined as follows:

Protection from demineralisation –
When bacteria in the mouth combines with sugars, they produce acid. This acid can erode tooth enamel and damage our teeth. Fluoride can protect teeth from demineralisation that is caused by the acid.

Remineralisation –
If acid has already caused some damage to the teeth, fluoride gathers in the demineralised areas and begins strengthening the enamel.

Drink it Up!

Fluoride is found naturally in many foods and in most Australian water supplies. If you tend to drink bottled water, it may not contain fluoride so you should check with your dentist to determine if you need a supplement. Drinking water containing 0.7 to 1.2 parts of fluoride for every million parts of water (0.7ppm to 1.2ppm) has been shown to have the best effect on dental health. The amount of fluoride in water varies between regions. Currently in Victoria, ninety per cent of people drink water with either naturally occurring or additional fluoride. Melbourne and some regional centres have had fluoridated water for more than 30 years. Your local water supplier can tell you how much fluoride is in your drinking water.

Do you Need More Fluoride?

Fluoride is safe and helps teeth grow strong. It works best when you are exposed to small amounts throughout the day via fluoridated tap water, foods, drinks, and toothpaste. Everyone has different dental needs and risks. Your fluoride requirements will continue to change throughout the course of you and your child’s life. This is something you can talk about with the dental experts at Dobson Dental.

It is also used in the following dental products:

  • toothpaste
  • cements and fillings
  • gels and mouthwashes
  • varnishes
  • some brands of floss
  • fluoride supplements (recommended in areas where water is not fluoridated)

Most toothpastes today contain fluoride so this is often the easiest way to ensure your fluoride intake. Fluoride toothpaste is very effective in preventing tooth decay. In areas where the water supply contains fluoride, toothpaste acts as additional protection.

Safety First!

Many reports have been published throughout the world about the incorporation of fluoride into water supplies. After many years, the scientific conclusion is that correctly fluoridated water, salt and milk, as well as toothpaste are extremely beneficial for dental health. Studies have not found any evidence that fluoride added to water causes harmful side effects, but it helps to reduce decay.

If you would like to know how your fluoride intake is shaping up, or if you have any further concerns, make an appointment at Dobson Dental today. Our experts look forward to meeting your dental needs!


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