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Baby teeth- just as important as Adult teeth

Baby teeth development and teething

Did you know that before your child is even born his or her baby teeth start to develop? This makes pregnancy an extremely important time to promote your developing baby’s oral health. Baby teeth begin as tooth buds that start to develop around six weeks into a pregnancy. The hard tissue, known as the enamel and dentin, begins to form around 18-20 weeks. The first baby teeth usually begin to emerge around 6 months of age and most children will have all 20 of their baby teeth by the time they are 2 ½ years old. When babies are “teething”, they may experience drooling, disrupted sleep and pain. A cold teething ring, rubbing the gums with a clean finger, or a cool spoon, or possibly over the counter pain medication as recommended by your doctor or dentist should help to ease teething pain. Fever, diarrhea or seizures are NOT are not typical responses to teething and may require medical attention.

It is important to keep baby teeth healthy in order to avoid dental disease such as tooth decay. Baby teeth are often thought of as “place holders” and it is important that they are not prematurely lost. Adult teeth are often visible and ready to erupt as soon as baby teeth fall out. Baby teeth help to maintain space within the arches while adult teeth are developing which helps to prevent crowding of adult teeth.

Types of teeth

There are four types of teeth in the mouth:
1) There are eight incisors at the front of the mouth in both the baby and adult teeth, which have a sharp biting surface.
2) The four canines in the baby and adult teeth are at the corners of your smile. They are used to grip and tear foods.
3) The eight premolars (bicuspids) appear only as adult teeth and have flat surfaces and are used to crush foods.
4) The molars are the biggest teeth in your mouth; their flat surfaces are used to chew and crush food. There are eight baby molars which are replaced by adult premolars when they fall out.

In total, there are twelve adult molars including the wisdom teeth. The first four permanent molars are called “six-year molars” and are so named because they typically erupt when a child is about six years of age. The next four molars erupt at around age twelve and finally, the ‘wisdom teeth’ typically emerge in late adolescence. There is often not enough space available in the mouth for emergence of 3rd molars, which is why some people need their wisdom teeth removed in their late teens.



Additional Resources

Canadian dental association

Dental Health Foundation Ireland


Fruit and your teeth

We have all seen television ads that show a person eating something that is ‘bad’ for their teeth and then shows how a product can ‘fix’ or protect your teeth. Many of these commercials imply that fruits are an example of a ‘bad’ food that will cause sensitivity or stain your teeth. Many foods, especially fruit, have natural sugar and even natural forms of acid in them. Even with sugar and acid, these foods are healthy and good for us in moderation. As for your teeth, as long as you eat a balanced diet, and brush your teeth twice a day, you and your teeth will be healthy.


What about dried fruits?

Dried fruits in particular have gotten a bad reputation. It is true that their stickiness may be harmful to dental health because the fruit sugar stays around on your teeth longer. But, the health benefits of consuming fruit of any kind are very important for your overall health. Dried fruits are always a better choice compared to candy, sweets or other ‘junk foods’.

Fruits that are high in acid, such as tomatoes, oranges and lemons, may harm tooth enamel as the acid breaks it down over time. If you like to eat either acid containing fruits or dried fruits, it is best to do so at mealtime. If you do like to have them as a snack, be sure to be attentive to regular brushing and flossing to keep your teeth strong and healthy.


Additional Resources

American Dental Association: For the Patient

Mouth Healthy: Harmful foods to eat, Nutrition 

White teeth are not necessarily healthy teeth

Teeth are not naturally completely white, and are normally light grey or yellow in colour, and this is perfectly healthy. Teeth naturally get darker with age. Their colour can be affected by the build up of surface stains caused by some foods, drinks, or other substances, from natural darkening of the dentin layer that lies under enamel, and from the wear of enamel itself. Many people are now interested in having a whiter smile for cosmetic purposes but having brighter teeth does not necessarily mean that teeth are healthier.


Healthy teeth characteristics

Healthy teeth are those that are looked after. You can have healthy teeth by brushing teeth and gums at least twice a day, using mouthwash and flossing teeth regularly, as well as having regular dental checkups. Making sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet is also important for healthy teeth.


Teeth whitening products.

There are two kinds of teeth whitening products: surface whiteners and bleaches.

Surface whiteners are better at removing surface stains on tooth enamel than regular toothpastes and mouthwash. Surface whitening products, such as special gum, toothpaste, and mouthwash, often contain abrasive materials that are smaller than those found in regular products. Therefore, they are more effective at removing surface stains.

Bleaches are often peroxide-based and unlike surface whiteners, can actually alter the colours of the tooth itself, not just the surface.

Different bleaching methods are used for bleaching living and non-living teeth. A non-living tooth is one that has had a root canal usually due to some type of trauma or tooth decay. Bleaching techniques used to whiten teeth may use a special bleach that reacts to light or heat, or a special bleach gel applied to teeth using a custom-fitted mouth guard.


Should I get my teeth bleached or use whitening products?

If you do choose to whiten your teeth using bleach products, be sure to discuss this with your dentist before starting. Newer ways to bleach teeth, particularly those using heat and lights have not been studied for long-term effects, so we simply do not know the potential oral health risks of using these procedures to whiten teeth. It is known that teeth bleaching, done in an office or with an at-home kit, can cause temporary tooth sensitivity or irritation.



Canadian Dental Association: Teeth Whitening

American Dental Association: Teeth Whitening



Fun with Fluoride

Fluoride can be found in natural water sources, community water supplies, and in many dental products like toothpaste and mouthwash. Fluoride toothpaste helps to strengthen your teeth while brushing removes the plaque, the bacteria that can cause gum disease and tooth decay!


Is fluoride good for my health?

Many cities have fluoride added to their drinking water. Drinking water on the coast of Labrador does not have fluoride added to it but there are ways for you and your family to get enough fluoride to protect your teeth against cavities and tooth pain. There is fluoride in most toothpastes and mouthwash, and everyone, even young children, should brush their teeth with fluoride toothpaste.


Can fluoride ever be bad for my health?

Some people are worried about using fluoride, because they are concerned that too much fluoride may harm their stomach, or discolour their teeth. Even though there is a warning on the toothpaste label that indicates it should not be swallowed, fluoride used in the right amount helps to keep teeth healthy! The warning on the toothpaste tube is important for children. If a child consumes a large amount of toothpaste, it can cause some discomfort, and may be dangerous. A child up to the age of 3 should use fluoride toothpaste for healthy teeth, but only an amount the size of a grain of rice. The Canadian Dental Association recommends that an adult should watch young children brush to make sure they don’t swallow the toothpaste. After age 3, children it is okay to use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.


I have heard that fluoride may lower IQ levels – is this true?

A Harvard study that became popular on the Internet linked fluoridated water to lower IQs. That study used information collected from an area in China with 10 times the recommended dose of fluoride in their drinking water! Too much of a good thing can be harmful, and fluoride is no exception. Hundreds of studies show the benefits of fluoride when used in the right amounts.


Additional Resources

Canadian Dental Association Fluoride FAQs

Health Canada Fluoride and Human Health

Fluoride Q and A

American Dental Association: Toothpaste

What are the fuzzy sweaters on my teeth?

Plaque is what makes your teeth feel fuzzy if they have not been brushed in a while.

What is plaque? How does it harm your teeth?

Plaque is a sticky film that is always forming on your teeth. Plaque has bacteria that can harm your teeth over time. These bacteria like acidic environments, which can be caused by sugary or starchy foods and drinks. Certain types of bacteria that collect in plaque can eventually cause cavities and even gum disease. The best defense against plaque, bacteria and acid build-up is brushing and flossing your teeth. Plaque that is not removed continues to build up. Minerals may eventually deposit into the plaque turning it into calculus, which is also called tartar. This tartar, or hardened plaque, is more difficult to remove than plaque and increases damage to gums and teeth.

Cavities cause pain, and will not get better on their own. A dentist can repair the damage by filling the cavity. Sensitive teeth may be an indication of cavities or nerve irritation, so you should talk to your dentist about tooth sensitivity as it may be a clue to more serious oral health concerns.

How can plaque be prevented?

Cavities and gum disease can be prevented by brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing every day and regularly visiting a dentist or dental hygienist. You should brush all surfaces of your teeth, as well as your tongue to get rid of the bacteria in the mouth that can cause cavities. You should brush your teeth for 2-3 minutes, and it may be helpful to play a song you enjoy to mark the time, or to use a timer.

Additional Resources:

Get Involved

Contact our: Healthy Smiles Coordinator Michelle Clarke (709) 960-0342

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