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The importance of baby teeth are often

overlooked as they are considered temporary.

They seemingly do very little before they are

forever lost to the realm of the tooth fairy.

This could not be further from the truth as primary teeth play such a critical role in the overall development of your child. Losing any number of teeth will absolutely and irreversibly have an impact on your child’s jaw development. The four front teeth are typically lost at 6 to 7 years of age and the back teeth between 10 and 13 years.  Thus, we need to ensure that we take care of these teeth until they naturally exfoliate.

Inadequate oral hygiene practices and unhealthy eating habits are the main contributory factors related to tooth decay. The amount and frequency of sugar intake plays a major role in the development of tooth decay. A common cause of tooth decay in young children are going to bed with a bottle. This condition is known as baby bottle caries.

So why are baby teeth so important?

Healthy, decay-free primary teeth assist with proper chewing and eating. Children can enjoy their foods without experiencing any pain or discomfort. This encourages healthy eating habits, which will overall contribute to the health of your little one.

Primary teeth maintain the space for the developing permanent teeth and assist with guiding the permanent teeth into their correct positions. Premature extraction of primary teeth can lead to crowding and result in the need for serious orthodontic intervention.
Primary teeth contribute to the development of the jaw bones and musculature as well. Primary teeth play an important role in proper speech development. Premature extraction of primary teeth will affect a child’s ability to form words and speak properly.

How can I, as a parent,
take care of my baby’s teeth?

Use a clean, damp facecloth or a soft infant toothbrush over your baby’s gums daily. This could be difficult at first, but you and baby will get better over time. The cleansing will remove bacteria from building up in your baby’s mouth. When your child’s first teeth appear, you may use a small, soft-bristled toothbrush. Show your child how you brush your teeth first and encourage them to simultaneously play with their brush on their own.

Teaching your child to spit out the toothpaste is very important. Best practice is to show your child how it is done and then allowing them to try. It will take time, so be patient. When your child has learned to spit out his/her toothpaste you may introduce an age appropriate fluoride-containing toothpaste. This will ensure that your child receives the correct quantity of fluoride to protect his/her teeth.

Let your child get involved in their own oral hygiene practices – take them shopping to pick their own manual or electric toothbrush. There are many fun oral hygiene applications you can download on your phone to make brush-time an exciting experience. Flossing your child’s teeth is no joke – it can be hard but will prevent cavities from developing in between teeth. Dental floss picks make this a bit easier than conventional floss.

When your child can rinse and spit well, you may introduce a mouth rinse into their daily routine.

Ensure your child brushes both morning and evening. Brushing should be done after breakfast and after supper before going to bed. Bring your child for regular dental visits, we recommend starting at the age of two. It’s important for your child to build a trusting relationship with your paediatric dentist. Should your child require future treatment they would be more co-operative if a relationship has been established. Another advantage of regular check-ups is early detection of cavities which means less invasive treatment. Small cavities can be treated with fillings, but if left untreated can result in extractions.

The work that you as a parent do in these early years of development will pay dividends when they are older. Setting a high standard of oral hygiene in the primary dentition will encourage good habits in the permanent dentition. And let’s be honest, besides the functional importance of their teeth, children deserve beautiful smiles that builds confidence and a healthy self-image.

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