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Dental Care and Baby Teeth, Something To Smile About

By Brian J. Gray, DDS, MAGD, FICO

Baby teeth are a milestone in the growth of a child

Your child's first baby tooth is another milestone in the growth of a child. Parents love to celebrate the tiny, yet momentous steps that pave a child's healthy development.

Babies are born with their primary teeth formed underneath the gums, but they don't start appearing until many months later, usually between six to seven months after birth; however, there is considerable variation in the timing. By the time children are three years old, they usually have a full set of 20 primary teeth.

Around age six, your child's jaws begin growing to make room for the permanent teeth. The roots of the teeth anchor them in the bone. As the permanent teeth start to push their way to the surface, the roots of the baby tooth dissolve completely and then the teeth fall out (exfoliate). Eventually, the roots of each baby tooth lose their anchoring power and are nudged out.

Each baby tooth should be replaced by a permanent tooth. The growth that occurs in the back of the jaws creates space for the additional 12 permanent molars.

When Should Children's Dental Care Begin?

Children's dental care should begin within just a few days after birth. Right after each feeding, wipe your baby's gums and inside of the cheeks, roof of the mouth and tongue with a clean damp washcloth or wet gauze pad to remove plaque, the sticky film containing decay-causing bacteria.

As soon as teeth begin erupting through the gums, continue proper dental care by brushing them with a soft-bristled brush. Do not use toothpaste. Regularly check your baby's teeth for any changes. If you notice any white or stained areas, see a pediatric dentist. Around the age of three when each baby tooth has erupted, dental care can continue as you begin flossing your child's teeth (if there is no space between the teeth).

Never let your child fall asleep at naptime or bedtime with a bottle of anything other than water! Milk, fruit juice, formula, or sweetened liquids contain sugars and can cause cavities and make dental care more difficult.

Each Baby tooth is important to your growing child's long-term dental care and oral health. Dental care is simple, yet essential, for a happy, healthy smile.

Since Each Baby Tooth Will Fall Out Anyway, Why Is It Important To Care For Them?

The primary teeth pave the way for your child's permanent teeth. They serve as the foundation for a healthy mouth and gums and proper positioning of permanent teeth.

The primary teeth help children to chew easily, speak clearly and put a great looking smile on their faces. They also provide structure to help shape their faces. If a baby tooth becomes broken or decayed and are left untreated, that can affect your child's erupting permanent teeth, cause them pain and even contribute to other health problems.

Primary teeth serve as natural space maintainers, holding the space open until the permanent teeth are ready to take their place. If baby teeth are lost too early, the other teeth can drift out of their position and invade the empty space. This might cause permanent teeth to come in crooked or unable to erupt into the gum, which leads to malocclusion.

It also can cause a permanent tooth to erupt prematurely, which isn't good for your child's long-term dental health. Be sure to seek dental care if a baby tooth is lost too early.