Most people are thrilled when their baby's first teeth come in. But those very same baby teeth tend to get written off as unimportant because they are only temporary. In actuality, though, baby teeth serve an important role in a child's development.
What is the purpose of baby teeth?
While they may only be temporary, baby teeth aid in speech and digestion. They help children learn to speak naturally and clearly. Proper chewing also helps children digest food properly and maintain good health during developmental years. Baby teeth also hold space for the permanent teeth to align properly as they come in.
Why protect baby teeth?
Baby teeth need attention and care to prevent cavities. It's estimated that 42% of small children have cavities (also known as dental caries) in their baby teeth – twice the number of cavities in childhood adult teeth. Many of these go untreated.
If left untreated, cavities and tooth decay may lead to early loss of baby teeth, leaving space for permanent teeth to drift out of place as they arrive one by one. It can also affect a child's speech and language development during formative years.
How to protect baby teeth?
As soon as baby teeth first come in, start carefully brushing them with a small toothbrush and toothpaste. The toothpaste should be non-flouride 'training' toothpaste, since small children have a tendency to swallow toothpaste and may ingest too much flouride. It can also help to demonstrate to your child how you care for your own dental hygiene, including brushing and flossing.
Avoid leaving bottles of sugary juices and milk in your child's crib to put them sleep, since this allows the teeth to soak in damaging sugars.
Thumbsucking should be discouraged before your child starts to develop permanent teeth. Sucking can affect the bite and alignment of both baby and adult teeth. In severe cases, it can even unnaturally constrict the roof of the mouth or the shape of the jaw.
Your dentist may recommend you bring in your child for his or her first visit soon after the arrival of the first baby teeth (generally by the first birthday) so that a relationship between child and dentist can be started. Early visits that are non-invasive and nonthreatening can help keep children from developing a fear of the dentist.
Giving proper attention to your baby's teeth as they develop, whether temporary or permanent, can add up to a lifetime of good health and great smiles. For more information, contact a professional like New Hope Solebury Dental Associates.Share