Why Baby Teeth Are Important For A Child’s Dental Development
Baby teeth, also known as primary teeth, serve an important purpose in your child’s dental health, which is why baby teeth are important. Many people mistakenly view these temporary teeth as unimportant, but the fact is, baby teeth need to be cared for just like permanent (adult) teeth do.
Healthy primary teeth aid in a child’s overall development by:
- Promoting proper chewing and eating: The chewing process breaks food down making it easier for your child to digest. Cavities, loose teeth, and sore gums can cause dental pain which may keep your child from chewing properly or from eating certain foods. This food avoidance can keep your child from eating a healthy, well-balanced diet.
- Helping with speech development: Well-spaced, healthy teeth contribute greatly to word formation and the ability to speak clearly.
- Holding adequate space for the permanent teeth: Losing a baby tooth too early can allow the teeth on either side of the space to shift and cause problems for the incoming permanent tooth. Without enough room for the permanent tooth to erupt, tooth position can be negatively affected which can result in overcrowding and misalignment and enhance the risk of dental disease.
- Strengthening the jawbone and muscles: When your child chews properly, the jaw muscles are exercised and developed which in turn helps jawbone formation.
- Raising self-esteem: A healthy, beautiful smile, even at a young age, can boost a child’s confidence.
Starting a regiment of good oral hygiene at an early age will keep your child’s baby teeth healthy while establishing dental habits that will last a lifetime.
Losing a Baby Tooth Prematurely
Baby teeth hold the space needed for proper development of permanent teeth. In most circumstances, a baby tooth naturally becomes loose and falls out a few weeks before the permanent tooth begins to emerge. Sometimes, however, circumstances occur which result in the premature loss of a baby tooth, such as:
- Early childhood caries (cavities): Your pediatric dentist may recommend extraction of a baby tooth due to decay.
- Avulsion: A tooth may accidentally be knocked out of the mouth completely by a fall or sports-related injury.
If a baby tooth does come out too early, your dentist may recommend the insertion of a space maintainer to preserve the space until the adult tooth is ready to come in. A space maintainer is a custom-made dental appliance, similar to an orthodontic retainer, which fills the hole left by the lost baby tooth and prevents the other teeth from crowding or shifting into the space.
Space maintainers may be made of metal or acrylic and can be removable or fixed in the child’s mouth. A removable space maintainer fills the space with an artificial tooth or plastic block.
Types of fixed space maintainers include:
- Crown and loop: Space maintainer that uses a crown which is placed on a neighboring tooth and attached to a metal loop that holds the space intact.
- Unilateral: Space maintainer similar to the crown and loop, but attaches the metal loop to an existing tooth.
- Lingual: Space maintainer which utilizes a band wrapped around a tooth then connected to a wire that runs along the inside of the bottom teeth.
- Distal shoe: Space maintainer inserted under the gums because no molars have erupted to hold the crown and loop or unilateral space maintainer.
- A space maintainer may not always be necessary for the premature loss of a baby tooth, but consulting your pediatric dentist is important to ensure that your child receives the appropriate dental treatment.
How to Keep Baby Teeth Healthy
A child’s first teeth will usually begin to erupt between 6-12 months of age, with all 20 baby teeth typically arriving by age 3. Keeping your child’s baby teeth health is the first step in creating a lifetime of good oral health.
Tips for maintaining healthy baby teeth include:
- Use a clean, damp cloth to clean your child’s gums, even before teething begins. This will clean away bacteria and establish early dental hygiene.
- As soon as your child’s teeth begin to erupt, start a routine of brushing twice a day. Use an infant toothbrush and a grain sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Monitor your child’s brushing until he/she can brush thoroughly and not swallow toothpaste. Be sure to consult your dentist if you have questions on early teeth brushing.
- Visit your dentist regularly. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that children have their first dental exam by age 1. Your dentist will not only examine your child’s teeth, but will advise you on pertinent dental topics and answer any questions you may have.
- Feed your child a well-balanced, healthy diet. Limiting snacking and sugary foods, along with eating nutritional foods will positively impact your child’s long-term dental health.
Schedule of Baby Teeth Eruption
Prior to the first tooth coming into the mouth, the gums will benefit from cleaning them with a damp cloth or a piece of gauze after feedings. This will help clean your child’s mouth of any remaining food or milk as well as begin the process for building good daily oral care habits. But once the first tooth erupts, it is time to switch to a baby tooth brush. The bristles are needed to help clean the any film or plaque off of the teeth. Please feel free to call The Kids Dentist with any questions and our pediatric dentist will be happy to answer any of your questions at any time.
Teething is when the first baby teeth (primary teeth, baby teeth, deciduous teeth, or milk teeth) appear by erupting through the gums into the mouth. They are usually the two bottom front teeth, followed by the 2 upper front teeth and the remainder of your baby’s teeth will appear over several years.
Your child should have all 20 teeth at around 2.5 years of age. Their permanent teeth will begin to erupt between the ages of 5 and 6 years.
- Stage 1: (0-6 months) Babies are born with a full set of twenty teeth beneath the gums
- Stage 2: (6 months) The first teeth to erupt are the upper and lower front teeth, the incisors
- Stage 3: (10-14 months) Primary Molars erupt
- Stage 4: (16-22 months) Canine teeth (between incisors and molars on top and bottom) will erupt
- Stage 5: (25-33 months) Large molars erupt
Schedule of Baby Teeth Eruption – Chart Download
Teething and Double Teeth
Growing up is hard. One of the big challenges infants face is coping with their baby teeth erupting. Parents know how frustrating this can be for a child and family to handle. In addition to infant fussiness, drooling is common around this time. Conventional wisdom says that babies may develop fevers or diarrhea while teething. Scientific studies have not proven that these issues are actually caused by teething, but rather more likely an unrelated viral infection happening around the same time of teething. All baby teeth are usually in the mouth by age 3. Girls tend to get their baby teeth slightly sooner than boys and teeth on the lower jaw tend to come in before similar teeth on the upper jaw.
Do not apply medical anesthetic gels to the gums of a teething infant – there are ingredients in these gels that can be toxic for some babies. Instead, soothe with other means such as a cold plastic ring to chew on or simply rocking the child. These are safer ways to provide teething relief for infants.
Between ages five and seven, most kids will experience their first loose tooth. Usually this is a lower front tooth (“central incisor”). Baby teeth get loose because their roots get shorter as they are actively pushed on by the grown up teeth coming up that will soon replace them. When a loose baby tooth is finally pulled out, it’s common to see a little bit of bleeding from the gums and notice a rough or jagged edge to the bottom of the lost tooth. If it comforts your child, apply a little pressure to the socket with sterile cotton gauze. Resume normal oral hygiene practices as soon as possible by brushing every area of the mouth except that fresh socket for a day or two. It’s important to keep the rest of the mouth clean as the gums heal.
Just like getting new baby teeth, erupting the first permanent tooth is an exciting transition as a child grows. It’s common for the permanent incisor to come in right behind the baby tooth before that baby tooth actually falls out. Many call this strange appearance “double teeth”. It’s important for families to know that double teeth are not an emergency or a serious problem! Typically, the loose baby tooth will fall out naturally with time. If the new grown up teeth seem crooked, it’s possible that pressure from the tongue will eventually push those teeth straighter over time.Back to Dental Topics
Dr. Shane Fisher
Dr. Shane Fisher, a board certified pediatric dentist, has over 15 years of providing comprehensive dental care for infants, children and teenagers. He has consistently received 5 star ratings throughout social media. He has patients that travel from all over the metropolitan area including Mequon, Whitefish Bay, Thiensville, River Hills, Fox Point, Glendale and other northern Milwaukee suburbs.
If you would like for your child to have a great experience at a pediatric dentist, please call Dr. Shane A. Fisher at The Kids Dentist 262-241-0400 or complete an online appointment request.