Cavities and tooth loss in children may not seem like a big deal because baby teeth are temporary. While baby teeth may be temporary, they are incredibly important to your child’s health and development. Our dentists in Cary are sharing exactly why these first teeth are important and how you can help your child take care of them until their permanent teeth emerge.
What Are Baby Teeth?
Baby teeth are the first teeth that emerge, starting when an infant is around six months. Over the next few years, your child will have 20 teeth come in. Just like permanent teeth, each tooth has a nerve and a root that holds it to the jaw bone.
At age six or seven, the root of a front tooth will begin to dissolve as the permanent tooth begins to push upwards, causing the baby tooth to get loose and fall out. Typically, baby teeth fall out in the same pattern as they erupt, and most children have lost all their baby teeth between the ages of 12 to 14. As the jaws grow, there is more room for additional molars, so by adulthood, there are 28 permanent teeth, or 32 including wisdom teeth.
Why Are Baby Teeth Important?
Even though they’re only around for a short time compared to permanent or adult teeth, baby teeth are essential to your child’s development.
As an infant gets older, they stop relying on formula or breastmilk and require more diverse foods. While most babies start with pureed food, they quickly move on to finger foods and soft items, and having teeth is essential to being able to chew and swallow them.
As a child learns to talk, having teeth is important to ensure they are able to correctly pronounce sounds and words. If they lose baby teeth to early due to injury or decay, they may have difficulties saying more difficult consonant blends.
Dental Health Development
Baby teeth act as placeholders for permanent teeth. A baby tooth neds to stay in place, giving the permanent tooth proper time to develop and grow under the gums until it’s ready to erupt through the gums. If baby teeth are lost too early, the extended period of having that space may lead to the other teeth shifting, creating gapped or crooked teeth.
Caring for your child’s teeth from the moment they emerge is essential because they affect their overall health. If a child develops cavities, this can lead to severe pain as well as abscess and infection. This increases bacteria in the mouth which can also affect the health of permanent teeth, leading to additional dental problems as the child gets older.
How to Care for Baby Teeth
From the moment the first baby teeth erupt from the gums, it’s important to begin taking care of them and teaching your child to care for them as they get older. This includes:
Brushing Twice a Day
Using a baby toothbrush and a tiny amount of baby-friendly toothpaste, it’s important to brush their teeth twice a day. As your child grows, you can show them how to brush their own teeth using a soft-bristled toothbrush and using a small amount of fluoride toothpaste. Until a child is around seven or eight, they should be supervised when they brush twice a day to ensure they’re doing it correctly.
Yes, children can learn how to floss their teeth, and it’s very important they do so. While traditional thread floss may be difficult, you can show them how to use a water flosser that rinses debris from between teeth, or use the individual floss picks that have small amounts of floss strung on a plastic “fork” shape. Flossing once a day is key to preventing cavities in spaces between the teeth as well as reducing tartar build-up around the gumline.
Scheduling Regular Dental Checkups
In addition to daily maintenance, it’s also important to schedule twice-yearly dental checkups and teeth cleanings. Having the dentist provide fluoride treatments, remove tartar, and check for cavities ensures your child’s teeth will remain healthy as they grow up, and this also sets good habits as they move into adulthood.
Schedule a Dental Checkup for Your Child Today
Whether your toddler is ready for their first dental appointment or your child is in need of a checkup, we can help! Call us at our Holly Springs dentist office at (919) 600-6262 and our Cary, NC dentist office at (919) 467-2203, or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.