Although most parents do their best to keep their child’s teeth clean, some feel it’s not that important since they fall out and permanent teeth grow in their place. An important thing to realize about primary teeth is that they help to determine the quality of your child’s health for the remainder of his or her life. Neglecting to care for your child’s teeth as a baby, toddler, and preschooler could cause ongoing problems in the adult years.
Baby Teeth Have an Important Job
Your child’s primary teeth enable chewing, speaking, smiling, and other everyday functions that most people take for granted. It’s helpful to think of them in terms of a placeholder in your child’s jaw until the permanent teeth start to erupt. Most kids start losing baby teeth at five to six years old and they continue to fall out until the pre-teen years.
Sometimes children lose a baby tooth before it’s ready to come out due to an injury, illness, or severe tooth decay. When this occurs, it causes a disruption to the natural process of eruption for the permanent teeth. New teeth can start growing in the open space instead of the intended position. This can cause your child to have crowded or crooked teeth that requires future orthodontic work. It’s important to take steps to prevent blows to your child’s mouth as well as tooth decay.
How to Care for Your Child’s Teeth
Great oral healthcare starts before your baby even has the first tooth. Each time you feed your infant, wipe his or her gums clean with a gauze pad or warm washcloth. This only takes a minute, yet is extremely effective at preventing tooth decay. This problem can start as early as the first eruption, which typically happens when babies are about six months old.
At Southbridge Dentistry, we recommend supervising your child closely or brushing the teeth yourself until at least the third birthday. Place a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste on the toothbrush to start the process. Eventually, children will want to do it themselves. Try placing your hands over your child’s hands to help guide the process for very young children. Allowing your child to see you brush your own teeth helps to install good habits as well.
We also encourage parents to schedule their child’s first dental appointment by age one or approximately six months after eruption of the first tooth. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends this as well.