The Six-Year-Old 'Adult'

Prim Dent J. 2021 Dec;10(4):74-82. doi: 10.1177/20501684211065326.


Children are not miniature adults, yet when a child celebrates their sixth birthday, little do they know that, with the arrival of their first 'adult' tooth, they are about to gain their first real experience of being a 'grown-up'. The age of six is a key milestone in the mental, physical and emotional wellbeing of children, with most children in the UK having commenced primary school education by their fifth birthday. Six-year-olds are about to enter the most critical period in their dental development, the mixed-dentition phase, where their mouths are in a near continuous state of flux. This pivotal age in their dental development should not be undervalued; the dental decisions we make at this age means childhood lasts a lifetime. Caries is the most prevalent, preventable global disease, and with one in four children suffering from dental caries in the primary dentition by the time they start school, the foundations we lay down at the age of six translate into lifelong benefits for the permanent dentition. In this paper, the aim is to demonstrate that at the age of six we get a second chance to get things right. From caries risk factors and tailoring the five pillars of prevention by educating parents on the developing dentition, to reinforcing the importance of habit-breaking, developmental anomalies of enamel and early orthodontic intervention, this paper describes the importance of the age of six, never before so exclusively expressed in a dental sense.

Keywords: Paediatric dentistry; enamel conditions; molar incisor hypomineralisation; prevention.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Dental Caries* / epidemiology
  • Dental Caries* / prevention & control
  • Dental Enamel
  • Dental Enamel Hypoplasia*
  • Dentition, Permanent
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Tooth, Deciduous