As your child nears age 6, the jaws grow, making room for the permanent teeth. At the same time, the roots of the primary teeth begin to be absorbed by the tissue around them, and the permanent teeth under them prepare to erupt.
The first permanent molars usually erupt between ages five and six, so they are sometimes called the six-year molars. Because the six-year molars do not replace any primary teeth they are often mistaken for primary teeth. You should remember that they are permanent teeth and must be cared for properly if they are to last throughout your child’s lifetime. These molars are especially important because they determine the shape of the lower part of the face. They also affect the position and health of the other permanent teeth.
Sometimes a primary tooth is lost before a permanent tooth beneath it is ready to erupt. If primary teeth are lost too early, nearby teeth can tip or move into the vacant space. When the permanent teeth are ready to come into the mouth, there will not be enough room. As a result, they may erupt out of their proper position, leading to malocclusion.
To avoid such future problems, your dentist may recommend using a space maintainer to reserve space for the permanent tooth. If a primary tooth does not fall out when it should, your dentist may recommend that it be removed to prevent the irregular eruption of the permanent tooth.
Your dentist may recommend that your child use an over-the-counter fluoride mouthrinse daily after age six. Be sure to instruct and, if necessary, supervise your child in the use of these mouthrinses. By age 7, your child should be able to brush alone. Flossing, however, is a more difficult skill to master. At about age 8, the child should be able to floss his or her own teeth under your supervision.
As kids get older, they still need a parent’s help to keep their teeth sparkling clean and healthy. Here are five tips—
Find out if your water has fluoride in it (check with your local water utility).
If it does, drink tap water instead of bottled water. Most bottled water does not contain enough fluoride to prevent tooth decay. If your water is not fluoridated, talk to a dentist or physician about whether your child needs fluoride in other forms.
Help your children brush their teeth (with a fluoride toothpaste) twice a day
Young children cannot get their teeth clean by themselves. Until they are 7 or 8 years old, you will need to make sure they do a thorough job. Use no more than a pea-size amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush, and encourage your child to spit out toothpaste rather than swallow it.
Serve healthy meals and snacks.
- Limit between-meal snacks.
- Save candy, cookies, soda, and other sugary drinks for special occasions.
- Limit fruit juice. Follow the Daily Juice Recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (visit www.aap.org).
Take your children to the dentist
for regular cleanings and check-ups.
Ask your dentist about dental sealants.
Dental sealants are put on in dentists’ offices, clinics, and sometimes in schools.