There are many names for them: baby teeth, milk teeth, temporary teeth, deciduous teeth, or primary teeth. Whatever you choose to call them, the first set of teeth that erupt is just as important as the permanent teeth and maintaining good oral health from the beginning is critical to a child’s long term dental health throughout life.
Even though they are small and eventually fall out, children’s primary teeth play critical roles. Did you know primary teeth begin to form in the womb prior to birth? Although they are hidden within the gums for the first few months of life, baby teeth are well on their way to eruption before the baby even comes into the world. Around 6 months of age, the front teeth (known as incisors) begin to appear. The other teeth begin to follow suit, and by two years of age, twenty primary teeth should be present and accounted for. Although this is a natural process, it is often not quite as easy as it sounds. Anyone who has been around a teething baby has a sense of just how traumatic the emergence of baby teeth can be for all those involved. All of the crying (whether it be the parents or the baby!) is worth it. Primary teeth are vitally important in child development.
For example, baby teeth are needed for kids to learn how to eat and speak properly. Also, they encourage the jaws to develop a normal and natural appearance and shape. It is important to maintain baby teeth so that they are not lost before their time. If teeth are lost prematurely, the other baby teeth may move into the empty space. This can block or prevent the permanent teeth from erupting correctly and require the expense of a space maintainer. With proper care, baby teeth have a much higher likelihood of lasting a longer time.
Primary tooth care begins before the teeth have erupted. Wiping a baby’s mouth and gums with a clean damp cloth or specially designed mouth wipe after each feeding helps rid the mouth of bacteria, which prevents premature tooth decay. Also, it is a good idea to give a baby plain water in his or her bottle at night instead of milk or sugary liquids such as juice so the bacteria doesn’t build in the mouth during the night, especially once the baby teeth are fully erupted.
As soon as primary teeth erupt, brushing should start. There are special brushes for each age group. Infant brushes are available which are gentle on tender gums. Toddler brushes come in bright designs and with handles that are easy to grip. As a parent, it is your goal to establish a routine of brushing as early as possible to develop the habit.
A couple of other ways to protect primary teeth are the use of fluoride and sealants. Fluoride is available in toothpastes, mouthwashes, foams, and gels. It strengthens teeth and can even reverse damage caused by acidic food and drinks. Sealants are applied by your general dentist to cover nooks and crannies where food is most likely to accumulate. This helps to reduce tartar, plaque, and tooth decay.
Some combination of these techniques is recommended to ensure that a baby’s primary teeth remain healthy and strong. When it comes to your family’s teeth, parents must be prepared to be the tooth guardian as well as the Tooth Fairy! It is never too early to start. Make sure your children learn proper dental care at an early age to prevent dental problems throughout life.
Mary Kay Becher DDS PA is pleased to provide you with this helpful information and to offer you the finest orthodontic care for you and your family. For more information, please visit our website or contact our office for a complimentary orthodontic consultation.