Teeth: Primary school

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Key points to remember

  • a healthy diet is important and remember to include dairy food
  • avoid sugary drinks and snacks as much as possible 
  • give teeth a rest!
  • help your child with teeth cleaning until at least 6 years of age
  • brush teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and a small, soft brush 
  • children are entitled to receive free dental treatment within the School Dental Service - usually until 12 years of age 

Which teeth are present?

Most children start school with all their baby teeth. Adult teeth usually start to erupt around 6 years of age. As the front teeth are being lost, the first permanent adult molars come through behind the baby teeth at the back of the mouth. Towards the end of primary school the baby molar teeth and canine (eye) teeth are replaced by the permanent teeth growing underneath. 

When can my child see the dental therapist?

Children are entitled to receive free dental treatment within the School Dental Service - usually until 12 years of age. This is a basic service covering dental checks and simple dental treatment. If your child has more complicated needs (such as needing to have treatment done while they are asleep) they may be referred to a dentist or specialist paediatric dentist.

Does my child have to see the dental therapist?

If you don’t want to enrol your child in the School Dental Service, you can take your child to a dentist. However, treatment with a dentist is only free if:

  • you have been referred by a dental therapist, or
  • the treatment cannot be done by a dental therapist

If you choose to take your child to a dentist or paediatric dentist you will probably need to pay the private fee.

How often should my child see their dental therapist or dentist?

Most children are seen about once a year in the School Dental Service. Children with special needs or who have experienced a lot of dental decay in the past may be examined more frequently. Regular visits are very important so that any problems are identified early before they become too serious. Frequent visits will also build your child’s confidence in the dental clinic.

What should I do if my child’s teeth look crowded?

Your dental therapist is trained to check for signs of crowding and other problems with developing teeth. They may suggest that you see a dentist or orthodontist if there is a problem. The cost of orthodontic treatment is not subsidised by the Government.

What do I do if my child has an accident involving their teeth?

If your child has an accident involving the teeth, it is important to see a dentist as soon as possible even if you think the teeth look all right. Your dentist can check for unseen damage with x-rays and can provide the best early care. Long-term success of treatment is often dependent on how soon a problem is treated. ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation) forms will also be filled in. The cost of any dental treatment will be subsidised by ACC, but you may be required to pay a part-charge.

What should I remember about my child’s diet?

It is important that your child continues to maintain a healthy diet including dairy food. Remember to help your child make good choices when they have money to buy school lunches or treats. Avoid sugary drinks and snacks as much as possible. Children need to have healthy eating habits to carry over into adulthood. GIVE TEETH A REST.

How should my child clean their teeth?

An adult should help a child with teeth cleaning until at least 6 years of age. The teeth should be brushed twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and a small, soft brush. The gaps in between teeth should be cleaned with dental floss. You may want to buy some dental plaque-disclosing solution from your pharmacy. This is a dye that can stain the plaque on the teeth so you and your child can check to see that it has all been removed.

What is the best way to use fluoride to prevent dental decay?

Fluoridated water is the easiest way to help protect teeth at all ages. A fluoridated toothpaste should also be used. If you live in a non-fluoridated area, or if your child has experienced a lot of dental decay, you might like to speak to your dentist or a dental therapist about extra fluorides in mouthwashes that can help prevent dental decay. 

What are fissure sealants?

A fissure sealant is a plastic coating which can be applied to the biting surfaces of teeth to make them easier to clean and to protect them from decay. 

This page last reviewed 21 November 2013
© Paediatric Society of New Zealand and Starship Foundation 2005 – 2015
Printed on 30 July 2015. Content is regularly updated so please refer to www.kidshealth.org.nz for the most up-to-date version
Content endorsed by the Paediatric Society of New Zealand