Why Do Baby Teeth Matter?
By Pediatric Dentist Gayatri Bhosale-Mohite
Baby teeth or “milk teeth” play a vital role in a child’s physical, emotional, and social development for many reasons. Unfortunately, many parents are under the impression that since they fall out eventually, it’s not crucial to take care of baby teeth.
Here are a few reasons why baby teeth are actually very important for your child:
- Overall Health and Nutrition: Healthy teeth are essential for chewing; unhealthy decayed teeth can cause nutritional deficiency. Untreated carious teeth can lead to severe infection that can spread rapidly to other areas of the body such as brain and neck at which time hospitalization is needed.
- Alignment and Position of Permanent Teeth: Baby teeth are space savers that hold space and guide the adult teeth in its proper position. If baby teeth are lost prematurely, adjacent teeth can drift in the open space and create inadequate space for the eruption of adult teeth, which leads to crowding or impaction.
- Stimulating Normal Development of The Facial Bones And Muscles: Also partly responsible for the development of healthy adult teeth, the permanent tooth bud is in close proximity to the baby teeth. If the carious baby teeth are left untreated, the decay spreads quickly in the form of infection toward the developing adult tooth hindering its development and causing permanent damage
- Speech Development: The presence and positioning of baby teeth help in the formation of correct pronunciation.
- Self Esteem: Decayed or missing teeth can cause a lack of confidence and social interaction.
5 Mistakes Parents Make with Their Children’s Teeth
You can help keep your child’s mouth healthy by avoiding making these mistakes:
- Delaying or not giving importance to a ‘well-baby checkup.’ The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends establishing a Dental Home by age one. The recommendation is that the child’s first visit to the dentist occurs by age one or within six months of their first tooth.
- Letting babies go to bed with a bottle.
- Lack of brushing with toothpaste and flossing—many parents are not aware of the significance of routine home oral care.
- Quality vs. quantity of high sugar diet—excessive sugary drinks (juice, flavored milk, soda) and snacks such as fruit snacks, cookies, and candy.
- Opting out of X-rays. Dental X-rays are a valuable tool for diagnosing dental diseases.
How to Practice Good Oral Health for Your Children
Be Bullish on Brushing; make brushing fun, not a battle! Here are some ways to help your child maintain good oral health:
- Brush together. Routine oral care habit makes an impact as kids get older, they choose to implement the habits learned from parents and caregivers.
- Start early. Infants’ dental ridges and tongue need to be wiped frequently with moist gauze pad or washcloth.
- Once teeth start to erupt, use age-appropriate toothbrushes and toothpaste and follow the rule of two: brush twice daily for two minutes, followed by flossing.
- Remember, children under three just need a rice grain size of fluoride toothpaste and pea size for children between ages 3-6.
Schedule Routine Dental Appointments After the First Dental Visit
Just like adult routine visits, children need to see their dentist every six months unless advised otherwise.
Besides oral examination, cleaning, and fluoride treatment, X-rays may be recommended based on high risk for cavities. There is very little risk in X-rays, as lead aprons and high-speed digital films are used to ensure safety and minimize the amount of radiation to the child.
To reduce your child’s anxiety about going to the dentist, prepare your child a few days prior to the visit by talking in a positive manner, reading or watching videos about the dental visit, which will make them less fearful and more confident.
Use Your Dental Provider as a Resource
There is no silly question when it comes to a child’s oral health. Pediatric dental care is essential for giving children the proper foundation for a healthy life, from childhood through adolescence and beyond.
If you have additional questions, feel free to reach out to a Dental Associates Clinic near you to meet with one of our pediatric dentists and begin establishing your child’s Dental Home.