Why are baby teeth so important? They just fall out anyway, right?
Wrong. Baby teeth are very important to maintaining a healthy smile for a person’s lifetime. We need to help our children and grandchildren develop good dental habits now so they can keep their permanent teeth forever. The American Dental Association sponsors Children’s Dental Health Month every February. But just because they are teaching your children good habits in school and daycare doesn’t mean you don’t play a huge role at home.
As parents and grandparents, even an aunt or uncle or anyone who’s caring for a child, you are responsible for starting them off right at home. Kids need to practice good oral hygiene habits everyday. You can help by supervising older children and actually brushing for children under age 8. Children learn best by example; grab your toothbrush and brush at the same time. Flossing is a good habit to start early as well, aim to floss their teeth once a day.
Babies can get their first tooth as early as 4 months and as late as 12 months. As soon as their first tooth erupts, brushing should begin twice a day. Use an infant toothbrush with fluoride free or training toothpaste until they are old enough to spit the toothpaste out on their own. Usually between 2 and 3 years old, all the primary teeth have come in. If you haven’t started flossing by age 3, you should start. Kid’s flossing sticks are great tools to introduce flossing habits. You can show them how to floss and then let them try with your supervision.
It is important to keep baby teeth free of decay and healthy so that they can remain in the child’s mouth as a placeholder for their permanent, or adult, teeth. When a baby tooth has to be pulled the space can start to close in which doesn’t allow enough room for the larger adult teeth to erupt into the space. This will cause crowding and jaw growth problems in as short as a year.
When primary teeth start to get loose, around age 5 or 6, encourage your child that it is normal and part of growing up when we lose our baby teeth. Some children worry, get anxious or even scared of losing their baby teeth which causes them to not brush the loose teeth as well and not want to wiggle them out. The faster they can wiggle their baby teeth out, once they have become loose, the better. And by this time the adult tooth is ready to erupt into its space.
Help kids prevent decay and gingivitis by encouraging healthy hygiene habits twice a day.
- Brush all teeth thoroughly for 2 minutes twice a day.
- Floss teeth, remembering to scrape along the sides of the teeth well, at least once a day.
- Visit the dentist as soon as the first baby tooth erupts and then every 6 months for routine cleanings and exams.
- Limit sugary drinks like juice, soda and sports drinks. Sipping on sugary drinks throughout the day increases the risk of cavities.
- Encourage your child! Praise them when they brush, floss and make healthy food choices.