Just because your child won't keep his or her first set of teeth forever, doesn't mean those tiny pearly whites don't need conscientious care. Primary teeth (baby teeth) serve some extremely important functions. As your local Tucson orthodontics team, we believe maintaining your child's dental health from an early age will lead to health benefits that last throughout adulthood.
Primary teeth act as guides for the eruption of permanent teeth (adult teeth). They hold the space where new teeth will erupt as the crowns (tops) of permanent teeth push against the roots of baby teeth, causing them to resorb or melt away. As a result, the adult teeth are able to take their proper place.
For about the first six years, your child will rely on primary teeth to perform important functions like biting, chewing, and speaking. Until around age 12, your child will use a mix of primary and permanent teeth to accomplish the same tasks. You will want to make sure all those teeth stay healthy and are lost naturally when the time is right.
Teeth actually start forming before birth. As early as four months of age, these primary (baby) teeth push through the gums—starting with the lower central incisors then the upper central incisors. The remaining 20 primary teeth typically erupt by age three. Permanent teeth begin eruption around age six—starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until around age 21. By then you have 28 permanent teeth plus four third molars known as wisdom teeth, equaling 32 teeth total.
Sometimes babies can experience teething discomfort during the eruption of their first teeth. If your child experiences discomfort, please consult your dentist for advice on the best course of action to take. Knowing right when your baby begins teething is also important, so keep a look out for the signs. These signs can begin occurring about four days before the tooth breaks through the gum line and can persist for up to three days after the tooth appears. Signs include:
- Biting and gnawing
- Chin rash (caused by excessive salivation)
- Swollen gums
- Ear rubbing
- Decreased appetite
- Disrupted sleep patterns
The best way to relieve the discomfort your baby may experience during teething is by applying cold and/or pressure to the affected area. You can do this by utilizing:
- Chilled teething rings
- Cold, wet washcloths
- Chilled pacifiers
- Massaging baby's gums
Preventing Baby Bottle Decay
Tooth decay in infants can be minimized or totally prevented by not allowing sleeping infants to bottle-feed. Infants that need a bottle to comfortably fall asleep should be given a water-filled bottle or a pacifier.
Caring for New Baby Teeth:
The way your child cares for his/her primary teeth plays a critical role in how he/she treats permanent teeth. Children and adults are equally susceptible to plaque and gum problems; hence the need for regular care and dental check-ups.
At home, meanwhile, your infant's gums and newly erupted teeth should be gently wiped after each feeding with a water-soaked gauze pad or damp washcloth.
Starting at age two, when there are more teeth in the mouth, you will want to establish a daily brushing routine utilizing a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and a thin smear of fluoridated toothpaste. Your child may need your help with brushing until about age six.
Since primary teeth guide the permanent teeth into place, infants with missing primary teeth or infants who prematurely lose primary teeth may require a space maintainer, a device used to hold the natural space open. Without a maintainer, teeth can tilt toward the empty spaces and cause permanent teeth to come in crooked.
Good Diet & Healthy Teeth
The teeth, bones, and soft tissue of the mouth require a healthy, well-balanced diet. A variety of foods from the five food groups can help you minimize and avoid cavities and other dental problems. Children should regularly consume healthy foods like vegetables, low-fat yogurt, and cheeses, which promote strong teeth.
A Future of Strong Smiles
Primary (baby) teeth play a crucial role in dental development. Without them, a child cannot chew food properly and has difficulty speaking clearly. To ensure your child has a future of strong dental health, and has a much easier time during orthodontic treatment down the line, be sure he or she receives the best early dental care possible. For more information on other dental/orthodontics topics, keep reading the Doctor Smiles Orthodontics blog!