The Purpose of a Tooth Chart for Children

You may have seen a tooth chart before, but understanding how the dentist uses it to track the health of your child's mouth is a great way to support good oral care and development as he grows.

The Dental Chart

When your kids officially visit the dentist or dental hygienist, he will start by charting their teeth. A dental chart, or "periodontal chart," according to Healthline, serves as a way for your child's dentist to organize and note information about the health of your child's teeth and gums as they develop. It's an efficient visual tool to spot problem teeth or areas and note these on the chart, as well as track progress from a previous chart.

Dentists also use periodontal charts to track the loss of your child's primary teeth – or "baby teeth" – and the eruption of permanent teeth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentisty's (AAPD) tooth chart shows that children begin to lose their primary teeth between six and seven years old, when their upper central incisors exfoliate. Kids gain most of their permanent teeth by about 12 years old, with their third molars erupting in their late teens.

Comparing charts from previous visits helps your child's dentist know whether permanent teeth are developing normally, in the correct location and at the usual developmental stage. Because "teeth vary in size, shape and their location in the jaws," according to The American Dental Association (ADA) Mouth Healthy site, these variances affect how teeth work to help your child "chew, speak and smile." And more personally, how your child's teeth develop gives his face its "shape and form."

How It Works

You'll typically hear your dentist use the "Universal Numbering System" when charting your child's teeth. In the United States, the "Universal Numbering System," is the official system adopted by the ADA , according to Dental Anatomy, Physiology and Occlusion. In this system, the first tooth is located at the upper far right of your child's mouth, known as the "third molar," and counting continues around the front to the upper left side, to the 16th tooth. The 17th tooth is the lower third molar on the left side, and continues around the front to the lower right side third molar. Because upper and lower teeth have the same names, using a number system in charting saves time and confusion.

Primary Charts vs. Adult Charts

There's only one major difference between your child's chart and an adult chart, and that's the number of teeth. Babies are born with 20 teeth, whereas there are 32 permanent adult teeth. So, keeping good records via a tooth chart through this developmental phase is an important aspect of your pediatric dentist's work.

Following regular dental checkups ensures your dentist can monitor your child's development and spot any problems, like overcrowding, before they become crucial issues. So the next time you bring your children to the dentist, you'll have a better understanding of how the dentist uses a tooth chart, and the numbers you hear won't sound so foreign. Not only can you make sure your child receives great oral care at home – with products like Colgate® Fresh N Protect Toothpaste, designed for the changing tastes of tweens – but you'll also score points with them for knowing the lingo when they explain it to you.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Top Tips for Good Oral Care During Childhood

  • Brushing and flossing
    Begin using toothpaste to brush your child's teeth when he (or she) is 2 years old. Young children tend to swallow toothpaste when brushing, rather than spitting it out. Introduce fluoride toothpaste when your child is old enough not to swallow it. As soon as two teeth touch each other, floss between them once a day. You can use regular floss or special plastic floss holders.

  • Dental visit
    New parents often ask, "When should my child first see a dentist?” Your child should see a dentist by his or her first birthday.

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