Baby teeth are your child’s first set of teeth. Baby teeth begin arriving at about six months of age and start to fall out at about age six years. Baby teeth have a short “life,” but they’re extremely important to your child’s oral and overall health.
At Mosaic Dental, our team of dental experts provide children’s dentistry starting with (or before!) your baby’s first tooth. Our office in Sterling, Virginia, serves the diverse Loudoun County community. Here’s why baby teeth are so important.
Baby teeth need each other
Just like permanent teeth, baby teeth hold each other in place. If a baby tooth falls out before an erupting permanent tooth dislodges it, the teeth that surround the gap start to grow toward the hole instead of maintaining an upright position.
Even a single missing baby tooth can cause havoc in your child’s mouth and impair their oral health. When a tooth goes missing before its time, your child may start to chew their food on one side of their mouth only. This places tension on that jaw, which could lead to jaw pain over time, as well as digestion issues.
Baby teeth are placeholders
Your child’s permanent teeth grow into the spaces left by baby teeth. However, if a baby tooth is missing and the other baby teeth start to move into or lean toward the gap, your child’s permanent tooth isn’t able to fully erupt. The permanent tooth may grow in crooked, or could even become impacted.
Baby teeth help your child eat and speak
Your child needs all of their teeth in order to properly bite and chew their food. If they’re missing baby teeth, they may find it too hard to chew nutritious foods, including meats and vegetables.
Baby teeth also help your child’s mouth, lips, and tongue function well enough to form words properly. Without their teeth, they may develop speech impediments.
Baby teeth maintain your child’s facial structure
If your child has missing teeth, that could affect the development of their lower face. Their jawbones need the pressure from chewing to create new bone cells. Without the teeth, their bone doesn’t get the pressure it needs to continually renew itself.
Over time, missing baby teeth could cause your child’s jaw to atrophy. This can change the look of their lower face, making it lopsided and causing dysfunction while chewing and speaking.
Cavities affect more than teeth
If you notice a discolored spot on your child’s tooth, or if they have a toothache, you may be tempted to ignore it since the tooth will soon fall out anyway. However, cavities aren’t just a discoloration or small hole in your child’s tooth. A cavity is a sign that bacteria have invaded your child’s tooth, which may cause infections in the gums, bone, and surrounding teeth.
Also, an untreated cavity in a baby tooth can lead to dark, discolored spots on a permanent tooth. Even though you can’t see them, your child’s permanent teeth are developing just below their baby teeth. If your child’s baby tooth isn’t healthy, the permanent tooth might not be either.
How to care for baby teeth
Your child should have their first dental appointment as soon as their first tooth erupts and no later than one year of age. You can also bring a young baby for a well-baby checkup before a single tooth erupts.
During a well-baby checkup, we show you how to clean your child’s gums with a washcloth after they nurse or eat. You can continue to use the washcloth to clean their first baby tooth. A well-baby checkup also lets your child get used to coming to the dentist’s office.
Children should come in at least twice a year for regular exams and cleanings. To book your children’s dentistry visit, contact our dedicated team at Mosaic Dental by calling our office or requesting an appointment online today.