Baby teeth are much more important than most people realize. If we ignore our teeth, they won’t last as long as we want them to, and we only get one set of baby teeth and one set of permanent (adult) teeth. Teeth are important for speaking, chewing food, and holding space in the jaw for the permanent teeth to take their place. When a baby tooth is lost prematurely due to a cavity or trauma, the tooth beside it could shift or tilt towards the open space and affecting the permanent/adult tooth from being able to come in properly, causing overcrowding.
Cavities begin when bacteria (germs) use the sugar from our food and drinks to create acid. Those bacteria create “acid attacks” for at least 20 minutes after consuming the sugar. The acid is essentially attacking the teeth and creating tiny wholes and making the tooth weaker. When the acid is left on the teeth long enough, the weak areas can turn into cavities. So, the more frequently you eat and drink things high in sugar (candy, pretzels, chips, juice, pop, sugary gum, cereals, etc.), and the longer the teeth are exposed to those things, the greater chances of cavities forming, which can become very painful much quicker in children due to the small size of baby teeth. This is why it is crucial to encourage our kids to develop good oral health habits at a young age.
Here are some tips that can help decrease the risks of your child from having issues later on:
Avoid putting your baby in bed with a bottle
Begin brushing their teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts
Use the training toothpastes (without fluoride) until they do a good job spitting out the toothpaste and not swallowing
Start using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste with fluoride around age 3, increasing the amount as they get older
Help your children brush their teeth until they are able to do so themselves (this is usually around the time they are able to tie their own shows), continue supervising to make sure they brush thoroughly
Teach your child to brush their tongue to remove germs on it
Replace their toothbrush after using it for 3-4 months, or when the bristles start to flare out from ware
Begin flossing their teeth as soon as two teeth touch each other
Try to get your child to drink from a cup by the time they are 1, but do not let them sip all day on a sippy cup with sugary drinks (avoid introducing sugary drinks to your child at a young age, if they don’t know any different, they’ll take water much more easily)
Limit sweets to mealtimes, the increased chewing at mealtime causes more saliva to be produced and the saliva helps to wash away sugary and starchy foods
Encourage your child to stop sucking their thumb and using a pacifier as soon as possible; they can cause problems with the way their teeth grow in (often causing the front teeth to tilt outwards)
Introduce your child to the dental office between 1-2 years of age by taking them with you to your dental cleaning so they can watch you have your teeth cleaned, take a ride in the chair, and become familiar and comfortable with the office's staff
Make it fun! Find a app for your phone (such as Disney's Magic Timer) or print off a calendar for them to earn a star/smiley sticker every time they practice good oral hygiene to earn a reward after completely filling it.