National Tooth Fairy Day seems a fitting way to end February's National Children’s Dental Health Month. Traditionally, the tooth fairy takes your child's baby teeth and leaves something in return. It could be money or a gift. Because of this practice, you may wonder why it’s important for your child to have dental care. After all, they’re “only baby teeth” that will fall out when his or her adult teeth come in. Baby teeth have a purpose; they’re as important as our adult teeth.
Baby teeth help your child chew his or her food, speak properly and also hold space for the adult tooth. Starting good dental habits early can help your child avoid major dental problems later.
Your child will get his or her first tooth around age 6 months. The last baby tooth comes in around age 2. Though the front adult teeth come in at age 6, back adult teeth do not erupt until between ages 9 and 12. So in some cases, your child may have that baby tooth in his or her mouth for 10 years!
Much of the nutrition we need for growth and development comes from what we eat and drink. Chewing food well helps digestion and may reduce the chances of digestive problems, such as heartburn, both now and later in life.
Childhood lisps are cute when you’re young but imagine having to talk that way all the time! Your front teeth help your tongue know where to position itself when making certain sounds for speech. The longer your teeth are not there, the more habitual the speech problem becomes. In some cases, speech therapy might be needed to correct the problem.
Tooth decay is a risk from the moment teeth come into your child’s mouth. This is why your dentist or pediatrician says to only put water in your child’s bottle when you put him or her to bed and to not dip pacifiers in anything sugary or sweet. Milk and juice contain sugars that can settle against your child’s teeth. These sugars activate cavity causing bacteria in our mouths.
Tooth decay in infants or toddlers is often called Baby Bottle Tooth Decay even if the cause is not a bottle. Baby Bottle Decay most often involves the upper front teeth but it can extend to other teeth as well. In some cases, the damage is so severe that the teeth cannot be repaired and need to be removed.
When a baby tooth is lost earlier than it should be, the teeth on either side tend to drift into the space. The adult tooth may not have enough room to come in, resulting in crooked or crowded teeth. This loss of space is more common for back teeth than for front teeth. If your child loses a back baby tooth at an early age, your dentist may recommend a space maintainer appliance to help preserve the space needed by the adult tooth.
Remember, teeth can look healthy but have decay in spots that are not visible. I remember seeing a four-year old whose teeth looked perfect to the naked eye but her cavity-detecting x-rays showed tooth decay in between her back teeth. Had her parents waited until they saw evidence of a cavity to bring her to the dentist, the girl would probably have had a toothache, needed the baby tooth equivalent of a root canal or have had to have the teeth removed!
So you see, baby teeth do serve an important function. To keep your child’s teeth healthy, see your dentist regularly starting as young as age 1. If you do not have a dentist, I am accepting new patients. Please call my office at 440-960-1940 or use the contact form on my website at www.drjrobb.com You can also receive news and special offers on my facebook page at www.facebook.com/DrJenniferRobb
(*Note: Information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgement of your healthcare professionals.)
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