Although you only have them a few years, your “baby” or primary teeth are of the utmost importance. They are essential in the development and placement of your permanent teeth. Parents can contribute to their child’s oral health from the start by taking care of teeth from “babyhood.”
Baby teeth are more important than many realize. Primary teeth maintain the spaces where permanent teeth will erupt, and they help develop proper speech patterns. Otherwise crowding and misalignment can occur, resulting in more complicated treatment later in life. Primary teeth also are primers for teaching your child proper oral care habits.
Even though primary teeth last only a few years, decay, cavities and infection can take its toll. Although they are commonly referred to as “baby teeth,” they play a great role in developing our permanent teeth and our permanent oral health habits. They lay the foundation for our permanent teeth that should last us throughout our entire lifetime.
There are several ways to protect your child’s teeth at home. Babies’ oral health can be protected by cleaning his or her gums with a damp cloth after feedings. Brushing with a soft brush and water should begin as soon as the first tooth erupts. Wean children off of bottles, pacifiers and thumb sucking around one year of age in order to prevent the misalignment of teeth as they erupt. To prevent tooth decay, avoid putting a child to bed with a bottle of milk, juice or other sweetened liquids. Children can usually practice good oral hygiene themselves around age five. The best way to teach a child proper oral health is by providing a good example.
Dentists want to see your baby’s baby teeth as well. Your child should visit the dentist for the first time right around his or her first birthday, or approximately six months after the eruption of his or her first tooth. Taking your child to the dentist this early is the best way to prevent oral health problems, and it will help familiarize the child with the dentist as well. The first visit is primarily an icebreaker for the child and the dentist. If the child is compliant the dentist will do a gentle but complete exam, a cleaning, and take x-rays. It is very important the first visit go well so that the child gains trust and comfort in going to the dentist regularly. Patience and calmness from the parent is also important, to show the child you trust the dentist as well. Appointments scheduled early in the day are best, avoiding nap times, so that the child is alert and fresh.
Baby teeth don’t last forever. Children typically start losing primary teeth around five to six years of age. They will most likely continue to lose them until around twelve to thirteen years of age, at which point most of his or her permanent teeth have erupted. Primary teeth should be lost as naturally as possible, and should not typically be pulled until the permanent tooth makes it loose. If a primary tooth is pulled too early, then it creates the chances of the permanent tooth to become misaligned or crooked. Primary teeth fall out because the permanent tooth is pushing them to make room. Most teens have a total of 28 permanent teeth, plus four additional teeth, wisdom teeth, that will grow in behind in late adolescence.
Armed with this information, you will have the capabilities to give your child a healthy smile from the start.