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Looking after your children’s teeth

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By the time your child has grown their first set of teeth, you’re probably prepared for whatever life throws at you. You made it through teething – all the late nights comforting them until they finally went to bed – and now the kids are well into schooling, and your lives are settling into what resembles a routine.

…And then your children’s teeth start falling out. Good grief – it’s barely been a few months since they all came in!

It’s never a shock when your kid’s teeth begin to ‘abandon ship’, but there are usually a few surprises in store regardless. For example, did you know that girls typically lose their primary teeth (i.e. their first set of teeth) earlier than boys? Or that your child’s teeth may not fall out in the same order as their schoolmates?

Not to mention the clincher that constantly catches parents unawares: costs.

There’s plenty to take in, so we’ve assembled the go-to guide for when the tooth fairy comes to town.

When do kids lose their baby teeth?

At about 4 years of age, your child’s jaw and facials bones will begin to grow, creating space so that their adult teeth will have space to grow. By the age of 6 or 7, they should have a full set of primary / baby / milk / deciduous teeth (20 ‘pearly whites’ in total).

Between now and their 12th birthday, those teeth will begin to be replaced by their adult teeth. While the order can be random, it’s often the case that they will fall out in the following order.

You will also see wisdom teeth (sometimes called third molars) erupt at the very back of their mouths around the time they’re finishing high school, so there’s plenty of time to prepare for those.

Sources one & two

Here’s what it looks like over time.

You now have a rough timeline of what’s going to happen in your children’s mouths over the next few years. Time to prepare!

How to care for their new teeth

There are a few things you should be mindful of during the next few years.

Getting your kids to brush their teeth/floss

Now is the crucial time to instil in your kids the regular habit of flossing and brushing their teeth. Yes, you can (and should) get them to start flossing now rather than later – even if those baby teeth end up falling out.

“A little more than 1 in 2 children aged 5 to 8 experienced tooth decay in their deciduous teeth” – AIHW, a calculated average

For one, flossing keeps their gums clean (very important), and they also become more familiar with the practise, which means they won’t shirk the task later in life. They should be able to floss independently by the time they turn 8, which means you may have to help them along once their baby teeth have all come in. Make sure the dentist teaches them how to floss, and then practise it at home with them.

Image source: Pixabay

One news outlet had an inspired idea for getting kids excited about brushing/flossing their teeth. If you expect them to treat it as a fun exercise, you should treat it as such yourself. Kids are like radios: they pick up on signals you broadcast. So, send out some positive ones! Introduce some singing/humming while you brush, laugh at each other as you accidentally drool on your pyjamas.

It may seem silly, but a little bit of fun goes a long way in keeping their mouths healthy over the long term.

Remember, twice per day for brushing, and once for flossing. You should use fluoride toothpaste for a better clean (e.g. it helps remove plaque, prevents decay, etc.), and you can find specialist products for kids in stores that contains the right level of fluoride.

Coming up with the perfect Tooth Fairy story

When you think about it, the Tooth Fairy is quite inexpensive as a concept. Think about it: your child will only lose 20 teeth. At $1 a tooth, they’re instilled with a sense of excitement whenever they lose a tooth…and it’s only as expensive as a single trip to the movies over the space of a few years.

It also means you have 20 opportunities to construct a bit of a story for your kids about the tooth fairy. Perhaps the first time the fairy leaves a note introducing herself or himself (fairies are equal opportunity employers when it comes to gender). The next time, they may leave a trail of fairy dust that leads to some sort of yummy kitchen treat.

Why is this important? Because having teeth fall out of your mouth can be a little confronting, so it’s nice to have something to cushion the blow. It also represents a good opportunity for the fairy to remind your kids to continue developing good dental hygiene.

Costs to prepare for

So far, we’ve basically held fast to the old adage “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”. However, there’s always going to be surprises when it comes to looking after your family’s health. So, let’s take a look at ‘the cure’…and the cost.

Fillings/Cavities

The expression ‘like taking candy from a baby’ starts to take on a new light when you consider the number of children who suffer tooth decay – not just in their baby teeth, but rather their adult teeth:

Age (years) Prevalence of adult teeth that have been affected by decay
6 7%
7 15%
8 22%
9 31%
10 33%
11 39%
12 48%
13 52%
14 64%
Source: Child Dental Health Survey 2010. Notes available here. Figures rounded up to the nearest whole number.

That’s a large number of children suffering from tooth decay in their permanent teeth by the age of 14; which is why earlier in this article we placed so much emphasis on developing good hygiene. In 2012, the cost per filling on average ranged between $140 and $250, depending on which tooth required. Health insurance will help you shoulder these costs.

Alignment issues (e.g. overbites, crowding)

Crooked teeth and problems with the jaw usually call for realignment. This can be achieved with braces – something no parent really wants to pay for. If your child develops an overbite or an underbite, then a simple dental plate may help restore proper jaw alignment. If they develop more drastic problems, braces may be in order.

Braces costs can be expensive initially, and then you need to factor in regular checkups to have them tightened and checked periodically over the two years your child is likely to have them.

Costs will vary considerably when it comes to braces. DentalGuideAustralia.com, for example, lists the following costs:

Treatment Cost
Traditional braces (metal) $4,500 – $8,000
Ceramic braces (tooth coloured/clear) $5,000 – $8,500
Lingual braces (inside teeth, hard to spot) $7,500 – $12,500
Source: dentalguideaustralia.com/braces-costs

Another source (AustraliaDental.com.au) lists the price ranges from $2,000 to $9,000 for conventional treatment. They will (most likely) need to wear a retainer afterwards too.

Unsurprisingly, these costs can be shocking when looking at them at face value. However, you could claim hundreds of dollars back (per person) if you take out private health insurance and are covered for orthodontics. You can’t account for every possibility, but you can make sure you’re well covered for many of the possibilities.

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