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Are baby teeth really that important?

Updated: Mar 18

YES! A thousand times Yes!

Why Do Baby Teeth Matter? Baby teeth are very important to your child’s health and development. Baby teeth help your child to chew, speak, and smile. And, just as importantly, they hold the space in the jaws for the permanent teeth that are growing underneath them. If a baby tooth is lost too early, the permanent teeth can drift into the empty space and make it difficult for other adult teeth to find room when it's their turn to come in. This can lead to crooked or crowded teeth as well as poor jaw formation. That's why it's so important to ensure that baby teeth stay healthy in order to allow for healthy development and eruption of the adult teeth.

When Do Baby Teeth Come In? There are 20 baby teeth and they are all developed and waiting in their jaws when the baby is born. These teeth typically begin to appear between 6 months and 1 year of age and all teeth have usually erupted by age 3. It is common to note that girls' teeth typically erupt sooner than boys, though every child is different. The order of eruption can be found below:

When teeth first start to erupt, sore or tender gums can be a common side effect. Gently rubbing your child's gums with a clean finger or a wet cloth that has been cooled in the freezer can be soothing. Teething rings can also make the tender gums more comfortable. If your child is still cranky and in pain, consult your dentist or physician to see if there is an underlying problem or anything else that you can do to ease the pain.

When Should I Start Taking My Child to the Dentist?The ADA recommends your child's first dental visit after the first tooth erupts or by their first birthday. A dental visit at an early age serves many benefits as explained in our other post found here. Your dentist will familiarize your child with the office, take a look around the mouth if your child allows them to, and answers any questions you may have about how to care for your baby's teeth.

As soon as a tooth is present, the possibility of decay is present. There are no "age limits" on tooth decay!

How to Care for Your Child's Teeth It’s important to care for your baby’s teeth from the start. Here's what to do:

  1. You should always clean your baby's gums even before teeth erupt. All you need to do is wipe the gums clean daily with a moist washcloth.

  2. As soon as your child's teeth appear, decay can occur.

  3. If your child is younger than 3 years: start brushing their teeth as soon as they erupt into the mouth using fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. Brush teeth thoroughly twice per day.

  4. If your child is eager to brush themselves, it's good to encourage that behavior. However, they will not be able to adequately clean their teeth at this age. Supervise their brushing to ensure that they use of the appropriate amount of toothpaste and learn the proper technique and then follow up their cleaning with a minute of cleaning their teeth yourself.

  5. For children 3 to 6 years of age: use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Brush teeth thoroughly twice per day and supervise their brushing reminding them not to swallow the toothpaste.

  6. Until you’re comfortable that your child can brush on his or her own, continue to brush your child's teeth twice a day with a child-size toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

  7. When your child has two teeth that touch, you should begin flossing between their teeth daily.

  8. Floss at least once daily between any teeth that are touching. Your children can start to floss on their own once they are able to tie their own shoelaces (this is a great test of manual dexterity to know when they are ready). If you have questions or concerns, ask your dentist. The sooner your child visits the dentist, the more comfortable they will feel. Brush, brush, brush. (And floss too!)

Dr. Stephanie Stephan DDS, Dentist in Auburn Hills and Rochester Hills, Michigan 1590 Baldwin Avenue, Auburn Hills, Michigan 48340

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