Why you should always look after your child’s baby teeth even though eventually they will be replaced by adult permanent teeth.
Following my post from last time about when you should take your child to see a dentist for the first time, I got lots of feedback on baby teeth care. Like I said, I would definitely take my child to the first dental check up no later than 3 years old. But if you suspect something’s not right, definitely take your child in to see a dentist to get things checked for assurance. This reminded me of a conversation I had with an acquaintance recently.
Acquaintance: I’ve never taken my baby to see a dentist for a dental check up.
Mandy: How old is your baby?
Mandy: Seven months old? That’s OK, you need to relax!
Acquaintance: No, it’s seven years old…
Mandy: What!?! (At this point siren is going off in my head and I’m thinking to myself)
“Somebody call the (tooth) police! This lazy mama needs to be locked up!!!”
Acquaintance: Well… I just thought that eventually all the baby teeth will drop off and be replaced with adult teeth anyway, so why bother looking after them?
After I calmed down a bit, I think to myself, this is actually a very valid question. I’m sure a lot of mums think the same way too (even though they don’t want to admit it). Imagine if you’re planning to knock down an old house, would you bother adding a new kitchen to it? Or if you know you’re going to send your old car to the scrap yard, would you still give it a nice wash and polish? So, if you know your child’s baby teeth is going to be replaced by permanent teeth eventually, why spend the time and money to look after the baby teeth, right?
Do you know that tooth decay can happen as soon as your child gets his or her first tooth? I’ve even seen in extreme cases, a child with decay in a baby tooth ended up in the hospital due to acute infection and facial swelling.
By the age of 3, your child usually will develop a full set of 20 primary teeth. This set of primary teeth will eventually be replaced by a set of 32 adult teeth, including the wisdom teeth. Before that happens though, these primary teeth can play a big part in the way your child chew, smile and speak. This is the reason why it’s so important to look after your child’s baby teeth.
Untreated decays in baby teeth can lead to a higher risk in their adult successors. Unwanted consequences, including dental abscesses and dangerous spread of infections, can result in the malformation of the adult teeth. You see, the primary teeth have a strong influence on the future alignment of the adult teeth by serving as the important space holders until the adult teeth are ready to come through at the right time.
Problems with premature loss of baby teeth
There is a precise timeline for each baby tooth to be lost. If your child’s baby teeth are affected by tooth decay or some other trauma and either fall out or have to be extracted prematurely, this could have a negative effect on the growth pattern of the permanent teeth later on. The permanent teeth can simply drift in empty space and make it difficult for adult teeth to find room when they finally come out. This will lead to teeth being crooked and crowded in the future. The impaction of teeth is another condition you do not want to delay for too long to treat as it can affect the future alignment of the permanent teeth. This will usually require expensive orthodontic treatments or even extensive surgery to fix.
Advice on baby teeth care
I can not stress enough the importance of maintaining good oral care which can protect your child’s teeth for decades to come. Taking your child for early dental check up on a regular basis is important for the early detection of tooth decay and other problems. It’s important to have a dentist show your child how to properly look after their own oral health. Each child’s oral health needs are unique and specific. Our dentists can advise you what kind of toothbrush and toothpaste are best for your child’s specific needs.
Two other ways of cavity prevention are fluoride treatments and dental sealants, a layer that forms a protective coating in the chewing surface of your child’s back teeth. Only a dentist can diagnose and determine whether these treatments are required for your child. You want to lay down the strong foundation for your child to have a trouble-free oral health well into your child’s adulthood.
Dr. Mandy Tang, BDS (USyd)
P.S. Healthy habits are easiest to form at an early age for your child. Let us look after the oral health part and you can take care of the rest.