February is officially children’s dental health month! We are so excited about this because it is always children’s dental health month in a pediatric dental office. In honor of the official month focusing on the dental health of children, we’ll let you in on why the baby teeth are so important and some facts and answers to common questions about them. Of course, if we don’t answer your questions here, please never hesitate to call our office or ask when you’re in for your next appointment.
First and foremost, keeping your children’s baby teeth healthy is just as important as keeping your permanent teeth healthy. Yes, it’s true that these teeth fall out and are replaced by permanent teeth but they have many important roles before this happens. The second molars are in the mouth until around age 12, so keeping them healthy is extremely important. Often times we are asked, “but it’s a baby tooth, won’t it just fall out?” when we inform parents their child has cavities that need to be treated. The answer is yes, but often not for many years and if left untreated, the decay can get larger and can then need a crown or cause an infection in which case the tooth would need to be pre-maturely removed. The baby teeth are place holders for permanent teeth and losing them too early, to tooth decay or for any other reason, can cause the teeth behind the prematurely lost tooth to shift forward and therefore closing the space where the permanent tooth should eventually erupt. Yikes! There are space maintainers that can be placed to help avoid this from happening but a healthy, natural baby tooth is the best space maintainer out there.
The first baby teeth to fall out are the lower front 2 teeth called central incisors. This usually happens around age 6 but can happen earlier or later, everyone is a little different. If your child got their teeth on the earlier side, they may lose them earlier as well and vice versa. We aren’t worried as much about what age they lose their teeth, as long as they are falling out in the correct sequence. Kiddos sometimes get anxious and excited to lose their first tooth, especially when they start seeing classmates lose theirs. Parents often ask us why their child hasn’t lost theirs yet but all their friends have and the answer is that it’s totally normal for them to be a little early, a little late, or right on time as there is a range of “normal” as far as time frame goes.
Oral health is so important for children and adults alike. The mouth is an entry point to the rest of the body and if there are bacteria in the form of cavities or gum disease, this can translate to other health problems in the body. For children, when they have teeth that have cavities that don’t get fixed, it can have an impact on their performance in school and other activities. Children have a hard time eating when they have cavities and therefore can often times not be getting proper nutrition if they are having tooth pain. Please let us know as soon as possible if your child ever has any tooth pain, it’s important to seek care right away.
Brushing teeth and oral health in general is a life-long skill and habit that forms early in childhood. We recommend that you start gently brushing your baby’s gums with a damp cloth before they even have any teeth after every feeding. Once the first tooth is erupted, it’s recommended that you brush with a very small smear of fluoride toothpaste and once the child is 3 or old enough to spit out the toothpaste, a pea sized amount of fluoride toothpaste be used. It’s very important that parents help brush until the child is around 7 to 8 years old as they aren’t able to do an adequate job on their own until this age. We recommend that they get a turn and then mommy or daddy get a turn. Sometimes it takes awhile to get them in this habit but as with anything, good things take time!
Oral health is extremely important not just as an adult but as a child as well. It’s so important to build these healthy habits at an early age and to teach our kids how important it is to take care of their teeth. Please let us know if we can answer any questions or how we can help in any way!