The baby teeth are going to fall out...so, what's the big deal?
Baby teeth (primary teeth) are important for chewing and speech, but they are also critical to maintain bone for proper jaw growth and development. The baby teeth act as space holders for the adult teeth.
Excellent dental care and prevention can help to establish a good oral microbiome for healthy adult teeth and gums. Cavities are called an "infectious disease" because the bacteria are passed as an infection from one person to another though things like sharing utensils, cups and other activities. The earlier that children acquire the bacteria that causes cavities (Strep. Mutans), the more cavities they will experience throughout their lifetime (which also means more cavities on their adult teeth). However, if we can delay the transmission of these bacteria for even a few months (with techniques discussed at an early dental visit), many studies have shown that your child will have less cavities on both his or her baby and adult teeth.
Although the baby teeth begin to fall out (the lower center front teeth are often first) around age 6 or 7, the average child does not finish losing his or her last baby tooth until 11 or 12.
When baby teeth development decay, the cavities tend to grow much faster than in permanent teeth due to the much thinner enamel layer and smaller size of the tooth. If cavities in baby teeth are not treated, they can cause pain, infection and damage to the developing adult tooth underneath. Early baby tooth loss can cause significant orthodontic problems/crowding in the adult teeth.
Of course, we prefer to avoid all of the above by establishing a positive relationship with your child and teaching him or her many ways to prevent problems before they even begin!
Start brushing as soon as you can. Bacteria can colonize a child's mouth and live on the gums even before the first tooth erupts! You can clean your child's mouth with a soft infant toothbrush. The earlier you introduce your child to brushing, the easier it will be later on. Every little bit helps and counts as a win!
Older children may want to be independent brushing their teeth, but most children do not have the manual dexterity to properly brush on their own until they can easily tie their own shoelaces. So, give your child a chance, and then help him or her by going over their teeth one final time.
There are many different thoughts on whether to use toothpaste and which kind, and we are happy to discuss all of the options with you.
In terms of diet, try your best to avoid sticky, gummy foods. These are the most dangerous to develop cavities. Brushing after eating (or even rinsing with water if you are not at home) will significantly reduce the risk of decay. Bacteria produce the acid that makes holes in our teeth (cavities) for 30 minutes after we eat any type of refined carbohydrate (crackers, bread, sugar, etc). Anything you can do to reduce this amount of time (by brushing or even rinsing) will be helpful.
Bacteria have survived for millions of years because they are extremely resilient, but we are continually developing new ways to deal with them. We are in this together, and if there is anything that we can do to help your child stay healthy, we are here for you.