Baby Teeth

They are “Just baby teeth” so why take care of them?

If I told you that laying a strong foundation for your child’s oral health would help them have a healthy smile for the rest of their life, wouldn’t you place a larger emphasis into caring for their teeth?

Coming from a third world country, my family did not place much emphasis on oral health. In fact, I did not even visit the dentist until I was a teenager and had excruciating dental pain on a molar that had erupted in my mouth when I was 6 years old. Years of dental prevention neglect, not brushing my teeth properly, and going to bed after drinking juice or soda, had caused a large cavity on an adult tooth that I had in my mouth when I was a child. By the time I received dental care, I was in excruciating dental pain and I needed a root canal. In fact, I have had 2 root canals on that same tooth that failed which led me to having a dental extraction and implant by the time I was 27. So, I speak from experience when I say dental neglect at a young age can affect your oral health for the rest of your life!

Many a time, I hear from parents “they’re just baby teeth, so why not just let them fall out?” Well, there are many reasons. Some of your child’s baby teeth are not supposed to fall out naturally until they are 12 years old. Additionally, baby teeth play an important role. They help your child chew so they can eat nutritious food and stay healthy. Baby teeth also help your child speak and enunciate words correctly. They help your child have self-confidence to smile. They are nature’s braces and help keep the space for an adult tooth that will replace them in the future.  Without these baby teeth, our adult teeth would erupt haphazardly which could result in a very crooked smile.

Conversely, if a baby tooth gets a cavity and it goes untreated, it can cause your child discomfort, pain, an abscess (dental infection) or facial cellulitis (facial swelling).  In rare instances, it can be life threatening and lead to an emergency room visit. So why chance waiting until your child has discomfort to treat the tooth? From personal experience and formal education, I know that waiting until a tooth hurts to seek treatment normally means that a tooth will need extensive dental work to be saved, or may even need an extraction. However, early intervention usually allows a dental professional to repair and save the tooth and maintain its function.

Dental cavities are an epidemic in our youth. It is the #1 most common chronic childhood disease, and it is entirely preventable! According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, “By age 5, about 60 percent of U.S. children will have had caries at some point.” Due to these alarming statistics and realizing that educating families early and providing anticipatory guidance to lay a foundation for good oral health habits is the reason that both the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend a child’s dental visit by age 1. So please, understand that little teeth are a BIG deal.