Whether you call them baby teeth, toddler teeth, primary teeth, or “milk teeth,” there are plenty of misconceptions over how to care for them. In the excitement over lost teeth—and the ensuing visits from the tooth fairy—parents might forget that these seemingly disposable baby teeth are actually important for their children’s growth.
Why should you pay special attention to your child’s early teeth if they’re just going to fall out anyway?
From oral health to speech development to self-confidence, toddler teeth have a huge impact on your child’s current and future wellness. Here are a few reasons you should care for your child’s teeth and visit a pediatric dentist as recommended.
Tooth Decay Affects Baby Teeth Too
First, it’s worth remembering that tooth decay can affect permanent teeth and baby teeth.
Some parents might be tempted to think that early tooth decay doesn’t matter. After all, if the teeth will fall out anyway, there’s no need to worry about filling cavities, right?
Unfortunately, tooth decay can do much more than eat away at your child’s teeth. In some cases, tooth decay can lead to painful infections that will leave your child feverish and aching. Worse, untreated tooth decay can spread to other areas of the jaw, neck, or even brain, causing major health complications.
Caring for Baby Teeth Creates Good Dental Habits
Your child’s toddler days are a great time to help them develop key habits that will carry them through years to come. Why not help them develop proper brushing and flossing habits as well?
Though your child’s baby teeth will fall out one day, they’ll be caring for their permanent teeth throughout their life. Learning to brush their teeth twice a day is crucial for young kids, especially if you hope to build habits that will protect their adult teeth!
Most toddlers don’t have the fine motor skills they need to brush and floss effectively. Experts recommend helping your child brush until they’re at least five or six. From there, you should teach them to brush their own teeth and gums, prior to doing a quick once-over to make sure they covered everything.
There are plenty of ways to make brushing fun for kids, like leading by example or rewarding good brushing behavior. In addition, most dentists recommend that you start teaching your child to floss as soon as they have teeth that touch each other.
Baby Teeth Are Crucial for Chewing and Digestion
Proper nutrition starts in the mouth, as chewing is the first step toward breaking down food and absorbing its nutrients.
If your child is struggling with tooth pain or missing teeth, it can be harder for them to chew their food. This can lead to digestion issues like acid reflux or heartburn, which can further impact their nutrition and development.
Toddler Teeth Help Children With Speech Development
You might be surprised at just how big a role the teeth play in speech development! Because the teeth help us control the flow of air from our mouths, they’re essential when creating certain sounds. Furthermore, the teeth give structure to the muscles of the jaw and face, which help with essential mouth movements.
Having good alignment of the teeth, jaw, and face can be crucial when it comes to early speech development. Toddlers who are learning to speak need to be able to brush their lips and tongue against their teeth when making the correct sounds.
Baby Teeth Have an Impact on Permanent Teeth
Your child’s primary teeth may fall out of their mouths, but that doesn’t mean they have no role in the developing permanent teeth. In fact, your child’s baby teeth save a space for their adult teeth, helping ensure that future teeth grow in the right way.
In most cases, primary teeth only fall out once the adult tooth is ready to begin pushing through the gums. At this point, the roots of the baby teeth will begin to break down, causing the tooth to fall out just in time for the new tooth to emerge.
Without the help of baby teeth in the correct positions, permanent teeth might grow in out of alignment, or the teeth might begin to crowd each other. When this happens, it can be more difficult for your child to brush and floss their permanent teeth. This can lead to a higher risk of future tooth decay and infection.
In essence, if a child’s tooth falls out before the adult tooth is ready—such as after an accidental fall or after a removal due to tooth decay—you’ll want to seek expert help right away. Your pediatric dentist will have to preserve the area with an oral appliance called a “space maintainer.” This device can keep neighboring teeth from crowding in as they grow, allowing the permanent tooth to erupt in the right place.
Children’s Teeth Affect Their Self-Esteem
No one of any age likes to feel ashamed of their smile.
Unsightly dental issues can cause anxiety and stress in children. This might make them feel the need to cover their mouth or smile without showing their teeth. If a child struggles with dental issues for long, it may begin to affect their self-esteem.
To ensure that your child has the self-confidence they need to interact with others—and to ensure that you get to see their beautiful smile more often—you’ll want to take good care of their oral health.
Take Good Care of Your Child’s Oral Health
If you’re hoping to give your child the right foundation for their current and future oral health, it’s crucial to take good care of their toddler teeth. Maintaining a healthy smile now can go a long way toward building good habits and self-confidence, so make sure you’re making time for daily flossing and brushing. Don’t forget to partner with a pediatric dentist in your area to check on their dental development!
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