Kids move through the stages of their development pretty quickly. Whether it’s cribs and swaddles, booties and shoes or toys and… teeth? Seeing as though your child will eventually shed their baby teeth, parents and kids alike might find themselves asking whether or not it’s actually important to take care of those primary teeth at all.
Despite the fact that your child’s teeth are deciduous—meaning that they’ll fall out—those early little food processors play a crucial role in your child’s development.
1. Good Habits, Better Smiles
Taking good care of baby teeth is about protecting your child’s future smile as much as it is about protecting their current smile. Establishing good dental and oral health habits early on, such as making brushing and flossing part of your child’s daily routine, lays the foundation for brighter smiles later on while also giving them the confidence to smile brightly now. Similarly, getting your child comfortable with regular visits to the dentist will help them later on when their oral and dental care becomes their own responsibility.
2. Baby Teeth “Pave the Way”
Your child’s first set of teeth acts as something of “space savers” for the permanent teeth that will eventually take their place. Generally speaking, primary teeth fall out in a specific order (refer to our baby teeth eruption chart) so that they can guide adult teeth into the right position as they erupt. Baby teeth that fall out early due to tooth decay or injury can cause other primary teeth to drift into the empty space, ultimately crowding out adult teeth or forcing them to grow out of position. Children who don’t take good care of their first set of teeth are likelier to need corrective dentistry interventions such as braces when their second set of teeth come in.
3. Protect Adult Teeth
Even though they aren’t visible quite yet, your child’s permanent teeth are forming beneath their gum line. Adult teeth develop right next to the roots of baby teeth, meaning that damage to baby teeth—either from injury or from poor dental care—can affect adult teeth. In other words, your child’s adult teeth are already in their mouth and affected by their childhood oral and dental health. Research conducted by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) concluded with strong recommendations for dental sealants for children with primary teeth and adolescents with permanent teeth alike.
4. Facial Development
Teeth, both baby teeth and permanent teeth, provide support for facial muscles and bones. Early on in your child’s development, strong and healthy baby teeth will play a crucial role in the formation of your child’s jaw and facial structure. Poor dental health early on can contribute to jaw dysfunction or orofacial myofunctional disorders as a child matures.
5. Speech Development & Education
Teeth aren’t just useful in chewing and breaking down food—they’re critical for speech as well. We use our tongues, cheeks and lips in conjunction with our teeth to make sounds and annunciate words. Children with missing or damaged baby teeth or improperly positioned adult teeth may find it difficult to form the sounds necessary for speech. Additionally, according to the American Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children with poor oral and dental health are also likelier to “miss more school and receive lower grades” than those with good oral health.
How to Take Care of Baby Teeth
Your child’s specific oral and dental care needs will change rapidly as they grow out of diapers and into daycares but some things will never change.
Gums and gams: Start by taking good care of your baby’s gums. Early on, they won’t have any teeth to brush but you can still clean your baby’s gums and get them accustomed to oral care.
Two front teeth: Most babies will get their first pair of teeth anywhere between 8 and 12 months of age. From there, parents can start brushing their baby’s teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste. A trip to the dentist’s office at this stage will also help parents with brushing techniques and tools.
You are what you eat: Kids will almost always tend towards the unhealthiest foods. Parents can promote good oral and dental health by steering their kids away from cavity-causing foods such as sugary drinks and candy and towards naturally sweet alternatives.
At Treehouse Dental, we protect young smiles. Learn more about our pediatric dentistry services in the Greater Toronto Area and book a free virtual consultation to give your child a head start on a winning smile.