About Your Teeth

Throughout your life, you will have two sets of teeth: primary (also known as baby) teeth and secondary (also known as permanent) teeth.  Primary teeth begin to appear as early as at the age of six months.  All twenty primary teeth will be present by the age of three.

Permanent teeth will begin to grow around the age of six.  Between the ages of twelve and fourteen all permanent teeth will be present except for the wisdom teeth.  The next teeth to break in are the twelve-year molars, followed by wisdom teeth around the age of seventeen and on.  The total number of permanent teeth is thirty-two.  However, few people have room for all of them!  This is why wisdom teeth have to be removed.

Your front teeth are called incisors.  The sharper, fang-like teeth are called canines.  The next side teeth are referred to as pre-molars or bicuspids; your back teeth are called molars.  Your permanent teeth are the ones you keep for life so it is very important that they are brushed and flossed daily and that regular check-ups by a dentist are made.

[toggle title=”What is tooth decay?”]Tooth decay is the destruction of your tooth enamel, which is the hard, outer layer of your teeth.  Tooth decay is a problem for all age groups.  A sticky film of bacteria called plaque is constantly forming on your teeth.  When foods containing sugars are consumed, the bacteria in the plaque on your teeth produce acids.  These acids attack your tooth enamel.  Because plaque is sticky, these acids are kept in contact with your teeth causing the enamel to break down over time.  This is how cavities can form.[/toggle] [toggle title=”How do I prevent tooth decay?”]You can help prevent tooth decay by:

  • brushing twice a day with a toothpaste that contains fluoride;
  • flossing your teeth daily;
  • eating balanced meals while limiting snacking;
  • asking your dentist about the use of supplemental fluoride and sealants;
  • visiting your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.
[/checklist] [/toggle] [toggle title=”What is fluoride?”]Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral in water sources like oceans, lakes, and rivers.  It is nature’s “cavity fighter” since it helps repair the early stages of tooth decay even before the decay can be seen.  Research has shown that it helps prevent cavities in children and adults by making teeth more resistant to the acid attacks that cause cavities.

You can benefit from fluoride topically and systemically.  Topical fluoride is the type you get at the dentist or when you use dental products such as toothpaste and mouth wash.  Systemic fluoride is ingested (usually through a public water supply).[/toggle] [toggle title=”How do I help my baby with teething?”]

Sore or tender gums are common problems during teething.  Here are a few things you can do to make your baby more comfortable:

Gently rub the gums with a clean finger, a small, cool spoon, or a moist gauze pad.  A wet washcloth placed in the freezer for thirty minutes makes a handy teething aid — just be sure to wash it after each use.

Provide a clean teething ring for your child to chew on.  Avoid ones with liquid inside because they may break or leak.  If you use a teething ring, be sure to take it out of the freezer before it becomes rock hard.  You don’t want to bruise those already swollen gums!  Also, never tie a teething ring around a baby’s neck — it could get caught on something and strangle the baby.

Wipe your baby’s face often with a cloth to remove the drool and prevent rashes from developing.

If your baby seems irritable, ask your doctor if it is okay to give a dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen (for babies older than six months) to ease discomfort.  Never place an aspirin against the tooth.  Also, do not rub alcohol on your baby’s gums.

Food and Drug Administration recommends not using benzocaine products for children younger than two years of age, except under the advice and supervision of a health care professional.  Benzocaine is an over-the-counter anesthetic, usually under the product names Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel, and Orabase.  Benzocaine has been associated with a rare but serious (and sometimes fatal) condition called methemoglobinemia.  Methemoglobinemia is a disorder in which the amount of oxygen carried through the blood stream is greatly reduced.

You should start regular dental check-ups for your child after his or her first tooth appears (but no later than the first birthday!) to make sure your baby has a beautiful smile for life.[/toggle]