Baby Teeth are Important Too!

Baby teeth, also known as primary teeth, are a smaller set of teeth that begin erupting before your child celebrates their first birthday.  The permanent, or adult, teeth begin arriving around age 6 and most of the baby teeth are gone by age 12.  That means for 10 years your child relies on the primary teeth for biting, chewing, and jaw support.  Baby teeth are also important cosmetically.  We all have run across that kid who fell and must go without front teeth for too long because the permanent teeth aren’t ready to erupt yet.   Primary teeth hold the position for the underlying permanent teeth.  If baby teeth are lost too early, the remaining teeth may drift into the open space making it difficult for the adult tooth to erupt.  Often they will come in crooked or crowded out of position.

Because of these functions, it is important to maintain your child’s baby teeth even though they are not “permanent”.   It is recommended that your child’s first dental visit be around age one.  Brushing your child’s teeth is needed as soon as that first tooth erupts.  You should also begin flossing as soon as there are two teeth touching in the mouth.  Discontinue bottle feeding by the first birthday.  Bottles tend to allow liquids to pool in the mouth and this promotes cavities.  Transition your child by gradually watering down their bottle until only water remains.

Teeth are already forming before birth.  They continue to develop right through that second permanent molar eruption after age 12.  The proper levels of fluoride are very important to the strength of the forming enamel in all teeth.   If you are not using city fluoridated water in your child’s diet, a fluoride supplement may be needed.  Calcium and other nutrients are also important beginning with pregnancy.

We get a lot of questions about pacifiers and thumb sucking.  Most pacifiers do not damage teeth as long as they are not dipped in sugar or any sweetened liquid before are given to the child.  Thumb sucking is very natural and only becomes a concern if it continues beyond age 4.  Once the permanent teeth begin to erupt, the finger or thumb may cause misalignment of the teeth creating a need for orthodontic intervention.

As for braces, we will start to screen your child for orthodontic needs around age 7.  Often times we can tell you that orthodontics will be needed before that, but age 7 seems to be the ideal time to start space management and guided growth of the dental arches.

The best thing you can do for your child’s teeth is be involved!  Help them brush and floss.  Monitor their sugar intake and its frequency.  Start bringing your child to the dentist at age one and do it on a consistent basis.  Show your children that you value their teeth and they will value them too.  Most of all don’t use the dentist and cavities as a threat.  We have enough anxiety and fear to overcome without mom or dad saying, “If you don’t take better care of your teeth, you’ll have to go to the dentist and get some fillings!”

Thanks for Reading

Dr. Bruce