A baby’s milk teeth (the first set of teeth in the growth development) are called pearls for a reason; they are very precious and essential for ensuring your child’s dental and physical health. Many parents think that the milk teeth of children are not necessary, as they will be replaced with permanent teeth. This is not true! The fact is that they are just as important as the permanent ones.
Why are Milk Teeth so Important?
You might be wondering, why are my baby’s milk teeth so important? After all, they will ultimately fall out! According to the American Dental Association, the milk teeth have many vital functions. First, they serve as placeholders for your permanent teeth. If milk teeth fall out prematurely, the surrounding teeth may move into the empty space. As a result, the successive permanent tooth is unable to erupt timely, or it may come out at an abnormal position. Secondly, your child uses milk teeth to learn how to eat, speak, and smile. If the milk teeth fall out early, your child may have difficulty in eating or speaking.
Taking your child to the Dentist for the First Time
You should observe the eruption of your child’s first tooth by the age of 6 months. This process will continue until all the teeth have erupted around the age of 2 years. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), says you should bring your child for a dental checkup as soon as the first tooth erupts. This ensures that your child’s dentist can detect any underlying problems and treat them before it causes damage.
Taking Care of your Child’s Teeth
Here are a few tips that can help you preserve your child’s pearly white teeth throughout life:
1. Brushing and Flossing
Congratulations on spotting your child’s first tooth. While you’re celebrating and enjoying this important life event, it would also be a good idea to start thinking of buying a toothbrush for your kid as well. You might think, “when should I start brushing my kid’s teeth?”, well the ADA provides the answer: as soon as your child’s first tooth comes out, it’s time to keep them clean.
• Cleaning your Child’s Teeth During the First 3 Years – during the first three years, it is recommended to use fluoride-free toothpaste. Obviously, your child will not be able to brush his or her teeth at this stage. Therefore, you have to do it for them. Simply take a smear of the toothpaste on a soft toothbrush and clean the tooth surface, the gums, and the tongue. Make sure you brush your kids’ teeth twice a day.
• Toothbrushing for Kids Older than 3 Years – around your child’s third birthday, all the milk teeth would have erupted. Therefore, you can increase the quantity of toothpaste. Simply take a pea-sized dab of toothpaste and gently brush all the surfaces of your child’s teeth, making sure to massage the gums and clean the tongue as well. You will need to continue brushing your kids’ teeth until you feel that he or she can do it under your supervision. This will usually happen when you kid starts writing his or her own name. For elder children, the ADA recommends using a fluoride-containing toothpaste and brushing twice a day at least.
2. Dietary Care
What your kids eat will directly affect their oral and physical health.
• Dietary Care During Infancy – During infancy, children mostly require milk or other juices for their nourishment. Parents must make sure that their kids do not drink any sugary drinks or milk just before going to bed. Doing so will result in the adherence of sugars and carbohydrates on the teeth, releasing acidic products throughout the night that promote bacterial growth and result in the development of “rampant caries.”
• Dietary Care of Older Kids – For older children, you must ensure that your child eats a balanced and healthy diet. They must reduce the intake, and more importantly, the frequency of the intake of sugary foods like candies, chocolates, and juices.
Regular Dental Checkup Visits
No matter how carefully you look after your child’s teeth, you cannot ignore the importance of regular dental checkup visits. Why are dental checkups important for your kids’ oral health? Here’s why:
• Preventive Treatment – as your child grows and more teeth erupt in the mouth, regular dental visits will ensure that the dentist closely monitors their growth timetable and pattern. If there is any issue, it can be detected and treated timely.
• Fluoride Therapy – for kids who are at a higher risk of developing teeth cavities, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends fluoride therapy. Research has shown that fluoride is helpful in preventing the development of teeth cavities and children and adults.
• Dental Sealants – these are thin coatings of a plastic-like material that is applied onto the biting surfaces of the back teeth of children to prevent them from cavities. The molar teeth in children sometimes contain intense grooves and pits, that can promote food stagnation, bacterial proliferation, and the development of teeth cavities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dental sealants can prevent teeth cavities by 80% for 2 years.
The oral cavity acts as a gateway to the whole body. If you want your kid to have a pearly smile and perfect health, you should make sure that they have healthy teeth and gums. More importantly, children tend to follow what their parents do. You can inculcate good dental habits in your children by becoming a good role model. Why not make a toothbrushing and flossing a family routine?
This February let us celebrate the National Children’s Dental Health month by following the above recommendations.
After all, a family that brushes together smiles together!