If you’re a parent, you know that you don’t have to ask the question “when will my baby’s teeth come in?” The exponential increase in crying fits and sleepless nights will let you know. Teething isn’t a comfortable experience for babies but it is a necessary one. As a child’s baby teeth start coming in, parents can begin to give them solid foods, weaning them off milk. This helps them get the nutrients they need to kickstart a few growth spurts. Getting teeth after a baby’s first birthday is an important milestone in their development to toddler-hood.
But baby teeth aren’t just for chewing animal crackers and apple slices. Making sure your child’s baby teeth are healthy can mean the difference between a straighter smile later in life or years of orthodontics. Typically, we recommend that parents bring their baby to the dentist for the first time when the child turns one (or when the parents notice the child’s first tooth). This ensures that the child is comfortable at the dentist and allows the doctor to check for any abnormalities. Parents who neglect to bring their child in early risk leaving curable problems untreated.
Why does my child need to clean their baby teeth?
An astounding number of parents don’t understand the significance of helping their children brush and take care of their teeth at a young age. Encouraging good oral hygiene early helps kids develop healthy habits that’ll last their whole lives. As dentists, we see firsthand that people who don’t take care of their teeth pay the price. Cavities can quickly become tooth decay and tooth loss if left unchecked. No parent should want their child to go through an unnecessary amount of pain because of something that’s preventable.
Surprisingly, though, that’s not the only reason you should make sure your child’s baby teeth are healthy. If your child’s baby teeth begin to decay, your dentist will not fill them like they would normal cavities. Since baby teeth are so small and temporary, the dentist will pull them instead. While it’s good choice to pull those teeth (to get the decay out of your child’s mouth), it can make for a rocky road when your child’s adult teeth begin to come in. Baby teeth act as essential guides for adult teeth. They tell the adult teeth where they need to come in and at what angle. When a baby tooth falls out, it’s because the adult tooth knows exactly where it needs to go.
If a baby tooth is pulled early, the adult tooth loses that guide. The adult teeth will break through the gums without really knowing where to go. This makes for severely misaligned adult teeth that will need intensive (and expensive) orthodontic work in order to be straightened. The sad thing is, kids aren’t to blame for their decaying baby teeth. A three year old can’t be expected to clean their teeth without any guidance. It’s the parents who need to enforce brushing and regular dental visits.
So, what can I do?
Parents are always worried about their kids but rarely do they worry about their babies’ teeth. This needs to change. The best thing you can do is to remember how important it is for your child to maintain a healthy, clean smile. Get them a toothbrush early on and teach them the brushing motions with and without toothpaste on the brush. A lot of parents brush their own teeth in front of their children to help them learn. If you’re going to the dentist to get a cleaning, bring your child along. Get them used to going to the dentist and sitting in the chair. The more familiar and comfortable they are with the dentist, the better.
It’s also important to keep an eye on what your child is eating and how it affects their teeth. If you give your child juice, make sure to cut it with water to make it less sugary. The sugar in juice and sweets can stick to enamel and encourage decay. Also, remember to never leave a bottle of milk in the crib with your baby. It’s directly linked to a higher rate of cavities in toddlers and can lead to a host of other bad habits.
Your child’s smile is important. Take care of it at every stage of development, from their first baby tooth to their last.