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Teeth - problems with teeth

braces; tooth; decay; fluoride; dental; cavity; plaque; orthodontic; teeth; toothbrush; dentist; caries; therapist; orthodontist; bands; mouthguard; mouth; guard; knocked; out; dislodged; germs; toothache; filling; mouth; gums; fissure; sealant; first; aid ;


If you are eating a variety of healthy foods, drinking tap water (which contains a tiny amount of fluoride) and brushing your teeth properly then you should have healthy, strong teeth.

Sometimes you may have problems with your teeth if you forget to brush twice a day, are not brushing properly, eat too many sticky sugary foods without rinsing your mouth with water, or you may just be unlucky and have teeth which need extra help to be their best.

How do teeth decay?

teethGerms in our mouth grow on the teeth every day in a thin layer of compounds called dental plaque (say den-tal plark). The bacteria in dental plaque use the food and drink that we eat (especially sugars) to make acid. Some foods, like orange juice, fizzy drinks and lollies are already acidic. This acid attacks the tooth's outer layers (enamel and dentine) and eats them away.

If acid continues to attack, then a hole can appear in the tooth's outer layer (enamel). This is called tooth decay - or dental caries (say care-eez). Tooth decay may be painful or you may not even know it is there.

If the tooth continues to decay then a number of things could happen:

  • You could get toothache if the nerve or pulp get infected
  • missing teethThe tooth could break
  • The nerve could die
  • You could get swelling of your face
  • You might feel sick
  • You might need a filling
  • You might need to have the tooth taken out. If it was a front tooth it would spoil your lovely smile but don't let it stop you smiling.

Visit your dentist regularly

In South Australia the School Dental Service provides dental care for all school children up to the age of 18 years old. All dental care is free for preschool children. This service is free if parents have a Health Care Card. Other families will need to pay a fee for the service. A team of dental professionals can help you to look after your mouth, teeth and gums. This team includes a dentist, dental therapist and dental assistant.

In South Australia - Ask your school for the nearest clinic. You could look at the Dental Service website. SA Dental Service There may be a service like this wherever you live in the world.

Your parents might choose to visit a private dentist - their own dentist or one who specialises in looking after children.

What do they do?

A dentist looks at how your teeth are growing, checks your teeth for tooth decay. If they find a cavity (say kav-it-ee), that's a hole in your tooth, they can clean out the hole, and then put in a filling to stop any more tooth decay. A dentist can also take out teeth which can't be mended or are causing a problem for your secondary teeth, and will tell you if you may need a plate or braces to straighten your teeth. The dentist is in charge of the team that looks after your teeth.

dentistA dental therapist checks your mouth for disease such as tooth decay and repairs any damage. They also do any treatment that might help to prevent disease such as covering grooves in your teeth with a fissure sealant (say fish-er) and strengthening your tooth enamel with fluoride (say flew-ride).

They will also show you how you can prevent disease by taking good care of your mouth, teeth and gums.

A dental assistant helps the other people when they are looking at your teeth by passing the things they need and making fillings to mend teeth .

What if I have crooked teeth?

Often your new teeth will come into your mouth and look crooked or not seem to have enough room. In many cases this is normal, and the tongue and lips will gradually move the teeth into a better position.

Wearing a dental plate or bands.
Some people may need help to get their teeth into a good position. This is called orthodontic treatment (say or-tho-don-tic). You may need to wear bands and/or a plate for a few years. It is important to take extra care of your mouth while you are wearing bands or a plate. Teeth that are in a good position are easier to clean and keep healthy, are less likely to break, fracture, or wear, and they look nice.

What happens?

  • The orthodontist takes an x-ray picture so that she can see where your teeth are growing under your gums.
  • She takes an impression of your mouth with some stuff that's a bit like modelling clay or play dough. A model of your teeth will then be made so that the bands or plate can be made to fit you.
  • bracesIf you are having a plate it has to fit you well so that it doesn't hurt your mouth. You have to come back to try it on.
  • If you are having bands, metal or plastic holders are glued to the front of your teeth.
  • Wires are put onto the holders and elastic bands may be put on.
  • You have to go back every few weeks to get the wires tightened.
  • When your teeth have been moved into the right place you may have to wear a brace or plate for a while to make sure they stay in the right place.

Remember. For braces, bands or a plate to work well you need to wear them for quite a while - maybe up to two years.

Protect your teeth

Teeth can be damaged when you are playing sports like basketball, soccer, hockey, lacrosse, football, netball, roller blading, or skate boarding.

Wearing a mouthguard can protect your teeth.  Your dentist can make you a fitted mouthguard which fits your mouth exactly, or you can buy one from the chemist and mum or dad can follow the instructions to make it fit your mouth.

What if you knock out a tooth?

  • Get to a dental professional immediately. The quicker you can get dental care the greater the chance of saving the tooth.
  • Your dental professional will check your mouth to see what damage has happened and if any treatment needs to be done.

What can you do?

  • calciumFind the knocked out tooth.
  • Only pick it up by the crown (don't touch the roots).
  • If it is clean put it back in the place it was knocked out of. Hold it in with your tongue and lips or by wrapping a piece of alfoil around it.
  • If it's dirty, briefly wash it in milk or saline, then put it back in its place. Do not use water to clean the tooth.
  • If you can not put it back, store it in milk, saline or in plastic wrap.

Then go to a dentist straight away.

  • If you are sure it is a baby tooth you need not put it back in.  But if you are in doubt, put it in and let the dentist decide.

What if your tooth is just loose?

  • Push it into place.
  • Hold it firmly.
  • If it is very wobbly you can hold it in place with your tongue and lips or with some alfoil.
  • Stop playing the game and go to a dentist immediately.


"Oh I wish I'd looked after my teeth"
My grandma always said,
Every time she put them
In a glass beside her bed.

So brush your teeth
Morning and night
And when you get old
You won't give kids a fright.


This is what lots of kids thought

  • "Getting a filling doesn't hurt because they put your gums to sleep".
  • "When you have a check-up the dentist gives you a sticker if you are cleaning your teeth properly".
  • "When they put my gums to sleep it felt like two mosquito bites on my gums. Only your gums go to sleep, you stay awake".
  • "When the dentist pulled my tooth out it bled for a while. I had to put this thing in my mouth until it stopped bleeding".  
  • "My grandad told me about going to the dentist when he was a kid. I'm glad that I live now!"
  • "Some kids may tease a bit when you get braces, but you don't have them for ever and you look good afterwards".

Dr Kate says

Dr Kate
"When you go to the dentist for the first time it may be a bit scary, but you know that the dentist is there to help you keep your teeth healthy and strong.

Eating healthy food, drinking tap water, brushing your teeth well and visiting your dentist at least once a year are all ways for you to keep your teeth healthy.

Clean, shiny teeth feel good and look good.

Make sure you brush your gums gently too. Plaque can cause a gum disease called gingivitis (jin-ji-vie-tis) which makes your gums feel prickly and sore. Your gums might have white or red areas."  

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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