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Why Baby Teeth Are So Important
Children have 20 baby teeth that are already present in the jaw at birth and they typically appear when a baby is approximately 6 months old with all having erupted by the age of 3.
Although baby teeth will fall out at some point, they are incredibly important and parents should do their utmost to maintain them as long as possible as early loss of baby teeth can have severe consequences for the child.
- Baby teeth are essential for speech as the tongue, lips and cheeks deflect off the teeth when forming sounds. Early loss of teeth can impair speech development.
- They hold space in your jaw for the permanent teeth that are growing in the jaw and help guide them into the proper position. When baby teeth are lost too early, neighbouring permanent teeth can drift into the empty space making it difficult for other adult teeth to erupt correctly. This can lead to crooked and crowded teeth and orthodontic treatment may then be needed.
- Teeth are necessary for chewing and dental pain from cavities can lead to nutritional deficiencies if the child is unable to chew food properly. The enamel of baby teeth (the strong outer layer) is thinner in baby teeth compared to adult teeth and therefore it makes them more prone to cavities.
- Permanent teeth develop very close to the roots of baby teeth and infection and abscess of a baby tooth can cause damage to the developing adult tooth underneath.
- If a child is having dental pain, this could greatly affect their ability to pay attention and learn in school. It may also lead to days off school due to pain or emergency dental treatment. If a child has multiple decayed teeth, they may need to have the teeth extracted under general anaesthetic and this is a very distressing experience for both the child and their family.
- Decayed teeth, especially front teeth, may interfere with a child’s social interactions and affect confidence and self-esteem.
To help prevent decay and to develop good dental habits from an early age, be sure to;
- Brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste that is appropriate for the child’s age.
- Supervise brushing until the child is at least 7 as their manual dexterity has not developed sufficiently to clean the back teeth thoroughly.
- Go to the dentist as soon as teeth erupt to allow them to become used to the sights and sounds of a dental practice and to develop a relationship with their dentist.
- Keep sweets to a minimum and limit them to mealtimes.
- Only drink milk or water and if leaving a bottle in with your child at night, only give water.