Milk Teeth Care - Is It Important
One of the best things in this world is watching a baby smile. But have you wondered what is even cuter than a baby's toothless smile? A smile with the glance of the front few tiny teeth that start popping from the bottom. These are the baby teeth that come in when a child is about six months old. As the junior grows up, a complete set of milk teeth, also known as primary teeth, emerge from their gum line, giving them their best smile ever.
A child's baby teeth have much more to them than just being a part of a smile. Primary teeth are petite, but they hold great significance in a child's development. The eruption of baby teeth indicates that the child is growing up. They enable the little one to chew food, develop speech and also speak clearly. They also secure the spot for the set of adult teeth that would come in the future. Hence, paying attention to caring for the baby's milk teeth is very crucial.
The process of the emergence of primary teeth in babies is known as teething. It can be a little overwhelming for new parents to go through this process, as it causes some discomfort to the babies. But, with proper care and knowledge, it is easily manageable. Caring for a child's primary teeth ensures that they get a healthy set of permanent teeth when they grow up. Let us understand the process of teething and why it is essential to care for the milk teeth of a newborn baby.
What Are Baby Teeth?
The official term for baby teeth is deciduous teeth. They are also known as primary teeth, milk teeth, or first teeth. Milk teeth are a set of twenty teeth, out of which ten emerge on the upper gum line and the remaining ten on the lower. Typically the whole set erupts when the baby is around 2.5-3 years of age.
The deciduous teeth in an infant develop in the embryonic stage. The process begins from the midline and then advances towards the backside. When the embryo is about eight weeks old, there are twenty buds. Ten buds each on the upper and lower gum line. These buds continue to grow till they emerge as primary teeth in the baby's mouth.
The process of eruption of the primary teeth in a baby is known as teething. It starts when the baby is about six months old. But since every child is different, some kids may get their primary teeth earlier, and some may have to wait for a few more months. However, all of the milk teeth in a bay occur by the age of three years.
The first tooth to come out is the central incisor, followed by the tooth just right next to it. The first two teeth appear on the lower jaw. Around two months after the emergence of lower incisors, the upper four incisors start coming in. The premolars are the last ones to appear among the twenty baby teeth.
Falling Of Primary Teeth
The milk teeth have a relatively shorter span to spend in a baby's mouth. As a child grows up, all of their primary teeth would go away. A new set of secondary teeth will start to come in around the age of six. The first teeth to go away are the ones that came in first: central incisors. By the age of twelve, a child will lose all the primary teeth and have a set of permanent teeth.
The falling of primary teeth and their replacement by secondary teeth is known as tooth exfoliation. It happens when the secondary teeth push the base of the primary teeth. It results in the dissolution of roots by Odontoclasts which breaks down the bone tissue. As the milk teeth fall, they pave the way for the emerging permanent teeth.
Tooth exfoliation starts when a child is around six years old. And, it may last till they become twelve. During this time, all the primary teeth get replaced by a new set of adult teeth. However, in some cases, children can retain their milk teeth till adulthood. It happens when the secondary tooth fails to develop.
Difference Between Primary And Secondary Teeth
Milk teeth hold the place for secondary teeth. Both sets of teeth are equally important. But they are different from each other in terms of number, structure, and composition. Here are the differences between first teeth and permanent teeth.
The most notable difference between both sets is the number of teeth. There are 20 primary teeth in children, whereas adults have 32 secondary teeth. The extra four teeth are the wisdom teeth that appear once a person is 18 years old.
Enamel is the hard outer exterior of a tooth that prevents it from decay. In primary teeth, the layer of enamel is thin as compared to secondary teeth. Hence, secondary teeth are more durable than milk teeth.
The primary teeth appear to be a lot whiter than the secondary teeth. It is because they have a thinner layer of enamel that exposes the teeth. Secondary teeth appear to be a little dull in color as compared to the milk teeth.
Milk teeth are smaller in size as compared to their permanent counterparts. It is because they emerge when the child is small. The primary teeth should fit the little mouth and jaw of the baby. Hence, when we grow up, we get secondary teeth that are large and more durable.
The edges of permanent teeth usually have rounded humps, known as mamelons. They appear prominently till a person is ten years old, and by the age of 25 years, they go away on their own. Generally, mamelons smoothen naturally by eating and biting food.
Why Is Caring For Milk Teeth Important
The importance of primary teeth to a toddler is the same as the importance of secondary teeth to an adult. Imagine our life without a set of healthy teeth. What will follow if we don't take care of our teeth as grown-ups? We may develop severe oral problems. Dental conditions like bad breath, sensitivity, and tooth decay will trouble us. It will not only influence our physical but also our mental well-being. Similarly, primary teeth contribute to the physical, social, and emotional development of a child. As a baby's primary teeth develop, it affects their oral health and hygiene. Following are the main reasons why milk teeth are important and why you should take care of them:
Without a healthy set of teeth, children would not be able to eat their food. Not caring well for milk teeth may subject a child to tooth decay, causing a lot of pain and difficulty. Due to this, the child will not be able to eat appropriately. Hence, leading to malnourishment and affecting their development and growth. Having a healthy set of milk teeth will ensure that the child chews the food well and gets proper nutrition during their developing stage.
The milk teeth in a child are essential for the development of the facial structure. They provide the perfect shape to the face by controlling the growth of jaw bones and muscles. They also play a very significant role in making the space for the set of secondary teeth. Primary teeth are responsible for the face shape and structure.
Permanent Teeth position
Milk teeth are the space savers for secondary teeth. They hold the place so that the adult teeth can emerge after development and fit into the correct positions. Due to this, the secondary teeth fall into the appropriate place and prevent conditions like facial asymmetry, protruded teeth, difficulty in chewing, etc. Improper care of milk teeth may also result in tooth decay and premature removal of teeth, leading to the eruption of adult teeth in inappropriate places.
In little children, milk teeth support the development of speech. There are certain sounds that our tongue produces with the help of teeth. The pronunciation of sounds like 'th' requires tongue coordination with front teeth. If there isn't a healthy set of primary teeth, a child may find it hard to learn sounds and articulations. Hence, learning to speak clearly requires care of the child's milk teeth.
Teeth play a significant role in defining one's smile. A healthy set of teeth will make a child more confident to smile and express happiness. Children being naive don't understand their actions. Unhealthy teeth and bad breath may lead to teasing and making fun at school. It not only lowers down their confidence but also affects their psychosocial development. A healthy smile boosts the confidence and self-esteem of a child.
Caring For Baby's Milk Teeth
The proper dental care of your baby begins even before the first teeth come in. It is essential to maintain oral hygiene to prevent the build-up of harmful bacteria on the gums. Here is a guide to care for milk teeth right from when the first tooth pops up.
In infants, tooth decay may start as soon as the first teeth appear. Start cleaning their mouth during the first few days after birth. Use a clean moist washcloth to wipe the gums. It could be a little inconvenient to hold the baby and clean their mouth at the same time. So here is what you should do. Sit down at a place where you're comfortable. Position your baby in such a way that their head is in your lap, and you can see their mouth. Let the baby feel secure. Next, cup their chin with your hands and lift the baby's lips. Take a clean and soft cloth and clean the baby's teeth in circular motions. Also, ensure that you spend time cleaning the gum line and the front and back of the teeth.
As soon as the primary teeth come in, start brushing them with toothpaste. Use toothpaste that contains fluoride. But make sure that the amount is not more than the size of a grain of rice. With the advice of a dentist, you can brush the teeth of your baby twice a day. In the beginning, you can help them, but as they grow up, let them do it on their own. Make sure that you monitor the amount of toothpaste that they use.
For the children falling in 3-6 years, you can use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. It is essential that your kid brushes their teeth twice a day, morning and night. You should monitor how your child brushes and the amount of toothpaste they use. You must teach the baby to spit the toothpaste and not to swallow it. You can brush your child's teeth till you feel that they can't do it on their own. Use a child toothbrush with soft bristles and a pea-sized amount of toothpaste with fluoride.
Fluoride is one of the most effective ways to prevent the decaying of teeth. It hardens the enamel and makes the teeth stronger. Brushing teeth with toothpaste having fluoride will resist the bacteria and acids that harm the teeth. You can introduce fluoride in a child's diet through drinking water or as supplement tablets. Tap water contains fluoride. So, on the advice of your doctor, you can start providing the baby with water in a small sippy cup. If there is no fluoride in your water, you can go to the best kid orthodontist in your region and ask for other options. By the time a baby is two years old, their fluoride treatments can begin. In this process, the dentist applies fluoride solution on the exterior of the baby's teeth. It gives enhanced protection from tooth decay and other dental problems.
While you take care of the baby's milk teeth, it is also essential to recognize your feeding patterns. Don't give sugary and sweet food such as chocolates and juices to the baby. Only give sweets to them as desserts. You should avoid feeding the baby before bedtime or before a nap. Sleeping without a clean mouth leads to the build-up of bacteria. Also, try to avoid feeding frequently. As soon as the baby's stomach is full, wipe their teeth and gums with clean fingers or a washcloth. Give the baby some water at the end. Make sure that your baby never sleeps with a bottle in your mouth and you use the bottle only at the time of feeding. As the baby grows up, detach them from the bottle. Let them drink from a cup by the time they are a year old.
What Happens if You Do Not Care For Milk Teeth
The milk teeth, while they develop, are softer than the permanent ones. They need a little more care. The dental problems of kids are similar to those of adults. If the dental conditions of kids are not taken care of properly, it may lead to more severe difficulties as they grow up. Here are some common dental problems that the kids may develop.
As per the Centres for Disease Control and Prevent, around 20 percent of children from 5-11 years of age in the USA suffer from decaying teeth. Eating starchy foods rich in carbohydrates contributes to the build-up of bacteria on teeth. This sticky film is called plaque. Not caring for milk teeth properly results in the production of acids. These acids harm the tooth enamel and lead to decay.
Premature Tooth Loss
If the baby loses their milk teeth due to tooth decay, less jaw space, or injury, it is known as early tooth loss. When a milk tooth falls before the arrival of permanent teeth, the nearby teeth may shift towards its space. Due to this, the new teeth may erupt bent, making the whole set of teeth looking misaligned. Protruded and misaligned teeth may cause problems in eating and chewing. To solve this problem, the dentist installs artificial space maintainers that hold up the spot.
When having anything cold or hot causes discomfort in teeth and gums, it is called sensitivity. Though sensitivity is a condition that older people experience, children are also vulnerable to develop sensitive teeth. Since milk teeth have thinner enamel, they are more likely to be damaged by plaque. Thus, exposing the roots of gums and contributing to the condition of sensitivity in children.
Poor dental hygiene in children causes inflammation in the gum tissue. This condition is known as gingivitis. Due to the deposition of plaque on the base of the gums, they swell. The gums also become red and start receding. It leads to bleeding gums, bad breath, and a bad taste in the child's mouth that stays all the time. If gingivitis isn't taken care of, it may lead to severe infections.
The leftover food, sweet substances, and plaque over the teeth feed the colonies of bacteria. These bacteria, as they eat, produce hydrogen sulfide gas which is responsible for the smell in the mouth. It is common in the morning to have bad breath as the bacteria multiply in the mouth. But if it persists throughout the day, it may indicate oral problems. Proper dental hygiene ensures that kids have a clean mouth and they don't develop any issues.
Taking Your Child to The Dentist
You should take your child to the dentist for the first time within six months of teething. At the lastest, you can wait till 12 months. Search for the best kids orthodontist and see the reviews on the experiences of people. When you visit the dentist for the first time, they will analyze your baby's oral conditions and progress. You may also get information about taking care of the milk teeth and how to clean them properly.
Going to the dentist for regular dental checkups can be a little overwhelming for children as they may experience frightening. It is called dental anxiety. As the children grow, they may refrain from going to the dentist due to dental anxiety. Hence, to avoid the gap between dental visits, it is essential that you prepare your child for the sessions. Here are a few ways to make it easier.
· Schedule appointments in the morning so that children feel fresh. Give them a general idea of what may happen at the clinic. If they don't want to go, explain to them the importance of having healthy teeth. Make them understand and build excitement about the visit.
· Find the best kid friendly dentist in your area. Discuss the child's oral conditions honestly with your dentist. You should stay calm during the whole appointment and ask your questions and doubts. If you become anxious, the child may pick up the anxiety too.
· While talking to the dentist, give them the complete medical history of your child. Tell them if your baby has dental anxiety or any other fears. Let the dentist examine your child's teeth thoroughly. Your child may also undergo gentle cleaning of the teeth and removal of plaque. Observe how the dentist does it. You can also ask them about the proper way of brushing teeth and cleaning the gums.
Like adults, children should also visit the dentist after every six months. However, some dentists may call you every three months. Frequent visits to dental clinics will tell you about your baby's development. It can also make your child more confident.
Facts To Remember
1. You need not worry if your baby doesn't have any teeth by the time they are six months old. It is even possible that a baby may not have any teeth by their first birthday. It is because every baby is different and grows at its own pace.
2. Baby teeth generally come in when a child is six to twelve months old. However, by the time they are three months old, their mouth produces more saliva. During this time, babies have a constant urge to put hands in their mouth. It doesn't mean that they are teething. But they are trying to explore their mouths.
3. Fluoride is a mineral generally present in toothpaste. It prevents tooth decay and hardens the teeth' enamel. It is also present in tap water. You can add fluoride to your child's diet when they are about six months old.
4. Sometimes, teething may cause a little discomfort to the babies. To help calm the baby's pain, you can massage their gums or give them something cold. Make sure that your fingers or the washcloth that you use is clean.
5. Thumb sucking is another frequent behavior in children. It may begin when the child is in the womb. Thumb sucking is impulsive and comforting, and it goes away on its own by the time the child is three years old. But a baby's fingers can be dirty and so it isn't advisable to encourage thumb sucking. You can use a pacifier that is easily available in the market, and it is way cleaner and more hygienic than the thumb. Make sure that you wash and boil the pacifier frequently, especially after it falls on the ground.
When a baby is at a tender age, it is essential to ensure their proper growth. Just like the nutrition and physical cleanliness of the baby, dental care is also equally important. Not caring about the milk teeth properly among babies would result in dental problems when they grow up. Maintaining hygiene when the baby is teething will enable the growth of healthy milk teeth and permanent teeth in the future. Brushing the milk teeth twice a day with a fluoride-based toothpaste, cleaning gums with a washcloth, and flossing in between the teeth will keep the baby's mouth healthy.
You should also understand the significance of frequent dental visits. It is essential to help the baby cope up with dental anxiety and teach them about oral hygiene. Make the whole process fun for them, and the baby won't be scared. Communicating about your baby with the best kid friendly dentist will give a track of the baby's development. Get clear instructions on how you can care for your baby's milk teeth at home. Most importantly, make your child understand why it is significant to have healthy teeth. It will help you to build healthy habits, and the baby will learn to brush by themselves.
We understand that the baby’s first dentist visit could be overwhelming. But we, at JACKSON DENTAL, make it easy for you. Click here to book an appointment for your little one today.