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Protecting Your Child’s Baby Teeth For a Smile That Can Last a Lifetime

May 13, 2015 - Dental News

Some parents may overlook the importance of their child's baby teeth (also called primary teeth) because they reason that they are going to fall out eventually anyway.

Fact is, a baby's primary teeth play a crucial role in dental development. Without them, a child cannot chew foods properly and may experience difficulty speaking clearly. Primary (baby) teeth are also vital to development of the jaws and for guiding the permanent (secondary) teeth into place when they begin to replace the primary teeth.

Parents should begin caring for a baby's teeth even before the first tooth actually erupts by checking the baby's mouth periodically. If a baby's gums appear red or swollen, or if you can feel or see the tip of a tooth, the teething process may have commenced.

To clean, massage and soothe a baby's gums while helping to prevent the buildup of damaging bacteria, wipe a dampened gauze pad over them after each feeding throughout the day. As the baby's teeth begin to appear, clean them daily with a dampened gauze pad.

These plaque removal activities should begin with the eruption of the first baby tooth because babies can have problems with dental decay if parents don't practice good feeding habits at home.

Caries (cavities) in a child's primary teeth must be taken care of promptly to prevent pain and to help maintain the teeth until they are ready to be replaced by permanent teeth. Severe cases of decay can result in the need to extract all the front teeth until the permanent teeth grow in. Because a child's primary teeth guide the permanent teeth into place, infants with missing primary teeth may need a space maintainer (a device used to hold the natural space open) because without a maintainer, the permanent teeth can tilt towards the empty space causing the permanent teeth to grow into place crooked,

Never allow a baby to fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, juice or other sweetened liquids. When a baby sucks on a bottle while awake, the liquid is rapidly diluted with saliva and swallowed. However, if a baby falls asleep while nursing and swallows less often, the bacteria normally present in the baby's mouth have time to transform the sugars in the liquids being fed, into acids that attack the developing tooth enamel.

A child's first (get acquainted) dental visit can be scheduled around the time of the first birthday, and you should begin regular dental visits no later than by the age of two. Such non-invasive visits can help in the early detection of potential problems, and help children to become comfortable visiting the dentist as they grow older. Teeth are meant to last a lifetime and healthy baby teeth will usually result in healthy permanent teeth. Giving a child an early start on good dental hygiene is an effective way to help develop healthy smiles that would make any parent proud.