Parents, take good care of baby's teeth for proper mouth, jaw development

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  • By 95th Medical Group
  • EAFB
Baby teeth typically begin to appear in the mouth when a child is between age six months and one year. The American Dental Association recommends that a pediatric dentist examine a child within six months after the first tooth comes in and no later than the first birthday.

A dental visit at an early age is like a well-baby checkup for the teeth. After thoroughly checking for tooth decay and other problems, the pediatric dentist can show you how to clean the child's teeth properly and how to evaluate any potentially bad habits such as thumb sucking.

Most children have a full set of 20 baby teeth by the time they are 2 years old.

Many parents may overlook the importance of baby teeth and some don't realize they serve functions other than biting and chewing. Three additional important functions of baby teeth are that they:
  • reserve space for permanent teeth and help guide them into proper arch position
  • aid in normal development of jaw bones and facial muscles
  • help establish good brushing and flossing habits early on in a child's development.
Baby teeth reserve space for permanent teeth and help guide them into proper arch alignment. Teeth next to a missing tooth may drift into the empty space causing these teeth to occupy the space meant for another tooth. Possibly years later that tooth's permanent replacement may come into the wrong arch position. The dentist may provide your child with a space maintainer if a baby tooth is lost prematurely. It is preferable to take early preventive measures so your child can keep all of his or her baby teeth until they are ready to fall out naturally.

Like muscles in other parts of the body, your baby's face and jaw muscles need exercise to aid in their development. Sucking provides exercise for your baby's jaw, cheek, and tongue muscles. When your baby is old enough for solid foods, chewing also exercises these muscles. This chewing exercise is necessary for these structures to develop enough for your baby's teeth to erupt (emerge through the gums) properly.

As soon as teeth appear in the mouth, tooth decay can occur. Therefore, when your child's teeth begin to erupt, brush them gently with a child's size toothbrush and water. Brush the teeth of children over age two with a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste. Be sure they spit out the toothpaste completely and then rinse with water.

Your child's baby teeth must last five to 10 years or longer. As a permanent tooth reaches the stage of development when it is ready to erupt, the roots of the baby tooth it will replace begin to resorb (dissolve naturally). Gradually, the permanent tooth pushes the baby tooth out and takes its place in the arch position. If a baby tooth is lost too soon, the permanent tooth has no guide or space to follow and hence may come into the arch misaligned.