A lot of parents were never taught the importance of baby or, as we dentists call them, deciduous teeth. So when their children get teeth, parents have an attitude of: What is all the fuss about baby teeth? They are going to fall out anyway, so if they have a hole, what does it matter? The big teeth will soon emerge. Thankfully that kind of thinking is not so common these days.
So why are healthy baby teeth so important?
Proper chewing and eating – it is part of your digestive system.
Providing space for permanent teeth and guiding them into the correct position.
Permitting normal development of jawbones and muscles.
The four front teeth remain until the age of 6-7 years, and the back teeth only fall out between 10 to 13 years of age.
What is Baby Bottle Mouth Syndrome or decay?
The most common pattern of tooth decay in toddlers today is Baby Bottle Decay.It is caused by inappropriate bottle feeding with juice or sweetened drinks, by desperate parents in attempting to pacify the child.
The tongue covers the lower front teeth and protects them. The liquid from the bottle pools around the upper teeth. The acids (the pH of these liquids are very low or acidic) from these liquids attack the enamel of the teeth, which is lost over time. The upper front teeth decay quickly in this scenario, sometimes to the point of becoming blackened, unsightly stumps.
The poor child is then burdened with this until the age of 6 to 8 years, when the permanent upper front teeth erupt.
Having no front teeth can lead to speech defects. A lot of sounds are pronounced with the tongue touching the upper front teeth. The child might be teased or ridiculed at school and this can lead to an embarrassed, unconfident and withdrawn child with a speech defect that can remain into adulthood.
If the child loses a back baby tooth too early (due to decay), the next tooth behind it drifts forward into the space. The permanent teeth then become crooked because there is no space for them to erupt into.
To prevent Baby Bottle Decay, the child should be weaned from the bottle by the age of 1. Only put milk or water in the bottle, and dont create a habit of dependency on the bottle to fall asleep rather use a dummy as a pacifier.
So, why have regular dentist visits if my child doesnt complain?
If a child doesnt have pain or discomfort it doesnt necessarily mean that there are no problems. The childs mouth may have several small to medium sized holes that are not large enough yet to cause pain.
Regular dental check-ups enable the dentist to locate decay early and treat it before it causes pain. The dentist will also assess changes in the childs oral health and identify orthodontic problems.
Cleaning and polishing of the teeth remove debris that is full of bacteria that build up on the teeth, irritate the gums and cause decay. Fluoride treatments strengthen teeth and prevent cavities.
At what age should a child have his/her first dental check-up?
Ideally, the first dental check-up should be around their first birthday.
The dentist can examine the mouth and confirm normal oral development, check on cleanliness of the mouth and teeth and also look for any signs of tooth decay. Any questions that the parents may have, can be answered and advice can be given for optimal oral care. The child also becomes familiar with the dental environment, without fear for the dentist.
What steps can I take to ensure my child has good dental health?
Eat healthy and avoid frequent snacking.
Brush teeth properly twice a day.
Floss in between teeth once a day.
Visit the dentist regularly – every 6 months.
Place fissure sealants on all permanent molars (back teeth)
Ensure your child is getting the correct amount of fluoride.