Baby Teeth – Why is it important and how to care for it?

That pearly smile toddlers bless us with are divine. There is a joy to be in the receiving end of the smile especially if the parents and baby have been traumatized previously because of the teething pains. At six months the lower front teeth are the first to peek and it just adds on till they reach three years of age. While we know baby teeth is temporary it is important to care for it till they are lost, because they shape the future dentition and have a greater role to play in the general wellbeing.

Primary dentition – how many teeth do children have and their eruption sequence?

Most children have a full set of 20 primary teeth by the time they are 3.

As we can see above, the first teeth begin to break through the gums at about 6 months of age. They usually are the two bottom central incisors. Next, the top four front teeth emerge. After that, other teeth slowly begin to fill in, usually in pairs — on each side of the upper or lower jaw — until all 20 teeth (10 in the upper jaw and 10 in the lower jaw) have come in by the time the child is 2 ½ to 3 years old. The complete set of primary teeth is in the mouth from the age of 2 ½ to 3 years of age to 6 to 7 years of age.

  • A rough evaluation reveals that for every 6 months of life, approximately 4 teeth will erupt.
  • Girls commonly precede boys in tooth eruption.
  • Lower teeth usually erupt before upper teeth.
  • Teeth in both jaws usually erupt in pairs — one on the right and one on the left.
  • Primary teeth are smaller in size and whiter in color than the permanent teeth that will follow. As the kids grow their facial bones grow and can incorporate bigger and more teeth.
  • By the time a child is 2 to 3 years of age, all primary teeth should have erupted.

Why is baby or primary teeth important?

Baby Teeth - How to Take Care

A child’s teeth is very important to a child from a physical, mental, and psychological point of view. As the age advances nutrition is of core importance to the child, and teeth aide in that. There are many importance of teeth and here are few:

  • It aides a child proper chewing -grasping food, grinding it into pieces that can be swallowed and eating, and thus proper nutrition.
  • They provide space for the future permanent teeth and guide them into the correct position
  • They stimulate the normal development of the facial bones and muscles.
  • They aide in the development of normal speech- by providing proper contact points for the tongue in order to articulate certain sounds when speaking.
  • They contribute to a child’s psychological development by enhancing their appearance. Socially -: smiling and allowing one to look normal is necessary.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay/ Early Childhood Caries

Primary teeth are prone to problems like adult teeth. Tooth decay in infants and toddlers is often called baby bottle tooth decay. It’s also called early childhood caries. Baby bottle tooth decay most often occurs in the upper front teeth, but other teeth may also decay.

The biggest cause of baby bottle tooth decay is when baby naps or sleeps with a bottle full of milk or juice or is given a bottle rather than a pacifier for comfort. As the liquid passes out of the nipple into the infant’s mouth, it just sits in the mouth as the baby relaxes, stops sucking, and falls asleep. That means the developing teeth soak in the liquid’s sugar while the baby sleeps. That’s not good for developing teeth.

  • Early Childhood Caries is associated with Iron deficiency anemia
  • It is associated with Malnutrition including low vitamin D, low calcium, and albumin concentrations and elevated PTH levels.
  • It is associated with Disordered eating
  • It is associated with extremes of Failure to thrive and obesity.

How to care for Primary teeth?

  • Begin cleaning your baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth by wiping the gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth. As soon as teeth appear, decay can occur.
  • For children younger than 3 years, start brushing their teeth as soon as they begin to come into the mouth by 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.
  • For children 3 to 6 years of age, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Supervise children’s brushing and remind them not to swallow the toothpaste.

When 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 they come in. This can make teeth crooked or crowded. That’s why starting infants off with good oral care can help protect their teeth for decades to come.

Always visit the dentist after the babies’ first tooth has erupted.

  • Fruits and vegetables: Offer fruits and vegetables as a snack instead of carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables that contain a high volume of water, such as pears, melons, celery, and cucumbers are best.
  • Cheese: Serve cheese with lunch or as a snack as aged cheeses which help to trigger the flow of saliva. Saliva helps to wash food particles away from teeth.
  • Avoid sticky, chewy foods: Raisins, dried figs, granola bars, oatmeal or peanut butter cookies, jelly beans, caramel, honey, molasses, and syrup stick to teeth making it difficult for saliva to wash the sugar away. If your child consumes these types of products, have them brush their teeth immediately after eating.
  • Serve sugary treats with meals, not as snacks. If you plan to give your child any sweets, give them as desserts immediately following the meal. There’s usually an increased amount of saliva in the mouth around mealtime, making it easier to wash food away from teeth.
  • Avoid sugary foods that linger on the teeth. Lollipops, hard candies, cough drops, and mints all contribute to tooth decay because they continuously coat the teeth with sugar.
  • Include good sources of calcium in your child’s diet to build strong teeth. Good sources include milk, broccoli, and yogurt.
  • Offer your child plain water instead of juice or soda.
  • If a baby tooth cannot be saved and is lost prematurely, it’s usually possible for children to be fitted for an orthodontic appliance called a “space maintainer” to keep the permanent tooth’s place open.

So, take good care of the child’s teeth and help them lead a healthy happy life.

Hi, I'm Dr. Swati, a dentist by profession, closeted writer by passion. Mother to a 4-year-old daughter, I believe a raising a child is an arduous yet rewarding task, and one must avail themselves all the aide you get.

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