If you’re a parent, you may be thinking, “they’re just baby teeth—I don’t need to obsess over caring for them”. But baby teeth aren’t just adorable precursors to your child’s eventual permanent teeth; they’re an important stepping stone to a lifetime of dental health.
Your baby’s teeth provide structural stability for your child’s face and jaw, aid in the proper consumption and digestion of foods, and hold a place in the gums into which permanent teeth will grow. If your baby’s teeth become infected or misaligned, it can lead to complications for their permanent teeth later in life. Taking proper care of your child’s baby teeth is essential to their oral health for the rest of their life.
When Should We See the Dentist?
Think of it this way: where there’s a tooth, so there can be decay. Most dental professionals recommend taking your baby to see the dentist within 6 months of baby’s first tooth eruption, usually between 6 months to a year old. Some dentists have special training for treating young patients, and can work with you to identify ways to foster a love of oral hygiene in your child. Choosing a pediatric dentist may help make your child more comfortable and less anxious about his or her dental checkups.
Your dentist will offer guidance on caring for your baby’s teeth, which includes brushing, proper diet, and weaning from thumb-sucking as your child gets older.
- Even before your baby’s teeth erupt, make sure you’re keeping their mouth clean. Wipe your child’s gums daily with a moist cloth to prevent bacteria buildup, and begin gently brushing teeth as soon as they appear.
- As your child grows, continue to brush each tooth carefully, and when your child is ready, you can allow them to brush their own teeth as you monitor them closely.
- Consider a dental sealant, which can last up to 10 years and should be applied during childhood to help prevent cavities and decay. Always use a fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash.
Transitioning to Permanent Teeth
While the process of losing baby teeth is often a fun activity for children – especially when the Tooth Fairy comes to visit – some kids may have anxiety about their teeth falling out or the pain associated with losing a tooth. Talk to your pediatric dentist about ways to make losing baby teeth less stressful for your child, starting with censoring cartoons in which children’s teeth are yanked out by a string on a doorknob.
If your child is an avid thumb sucker, your dentist can suggest methods to help wean them off of this overbite-inducing habit. Although thumb sucking is often a major culprit, other childhood behaviors and even genetics can cause permanent teeth to come in crooked or your child’s bite to become misaligned. In this case, your dentist may prescribe braces or headgear to help shift your child’s teeth back into place.
Maintaining oral health throughout childhood and into adulthood is essential for a person’s overall health; this journey starts with proper hygiene for baby teeth. By brushing and flossing as soon as teeth erupt, taking your child to see a dentist for twice-yearly checkups, and working with your dentist to prevent bad habits and reduce anxiety around dental hygiene, you can support a lifetime of oral health for your child.