WHY THE PRIMARY TEETH ARE IMPORTANT?
Primary teeth, also known as baby teeth, milk teeth and deciduous teeth, begin to develop underneath the gums. Usually, preschool children have a complete set of 20 baby teeth, including four molars on each arch. One of the most common misconceptions about primary teeth is that they are irrelevant to the child’s future oral health. However, their importance is emphasized by the American Dental Association (ADA), which urges parents to schedule a “baby checkup” with a pediatric dentist within six months of the first tooth emerges.
WHAT ARE THE FUNCTIONS OF PRIMARY TEETH?
- Speech production and development – The proper positioning of primary teeth facilitates correct syllable pronunciation and prevents the tongue from straying during speech formation.
- Eating and nutrition – Children with malformed or severely decayed primary teeth are more likely to experience dietary deficiencies, malnourishment, and to be underweight. Proper chewing motions are acquired over time and with extensive practice. Healthy primary teeth promote good chewing habits and facilitate nutritious eating.
- Self-confidence – Even very young children can be quick to point out ugly teeth and crooked smiles. Taking good care of primary teeth can make social interactions more pleasant, reduce the risk of bad breath, and promote confident smiles and positive social interactions.
- Straighter smiles – One of the major functions of primary teeth is to hold an appropriate amount of space for developing adult teeth. In addition, these spacers facilitate the proper alignment of adult teeth and also promote jaw development. Left untreated, missing primary teeth cause the remaining teeth to “shift” and fill spaces improperly. For this reason, pediatric dentists often recommend space-maintaining devices.
- Excellent oral health – Badly decayed primary teeth can promote the onset of childhood gum disease. As a result of this condition, oral bacteria invade and erode gums, ligaments, and eventually bone. If left untreated, primary teeth can drop out completely – causing health and spacing problems for emerging permanent teeth. To avoid gum disease, children should practice an adult-guided oral care routine each day, and infant gums should be rubbed gently with a clean, damp cloth after meals.
PREVENTIVE DENTAL THERAPY
Implementing oral hygiene measures no later than the time of eruption of the first primary tooth. Tooth brushing should be performed for children by a parent twice daily, using a soft toothbrush of age-appropriate size. All children under the age of three, a ‘smear’ or ‘rice-size’ amount of fluoridated toothpaste should be used. In all children ages three to six, a ‘pea-size’ amount of fluoridated toothpaste should be used.
Providing professionally-applied fluoride varnish treatments for children at risk for ECC. Establishing a dental home within six months of eruption of the first tooth and no later than 12 months of age to conduct a caries risk assessment and provide parental education including anticipatory guidance for prevention of oral diseases
HOW TO PREVENT CAVITIES ?
Good oral hygiene removes bacteria and the left over food particles that combine to create cavities. For infants, use a wet gauze or clean washcloth to wipe the plaque from teeth and gums. Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle filled with anything other than water. For older children, brush their teeth at least twice a day. Also, watch the number of snacks containing sugar that you give your children.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends visits every six months to the pediatric dentist, beginning at your child’s first birthday. Routine visits will start your child on a lifetime of good dental health. Your Pediatric dentist may also recommend protective sealants or home fluoride treatments for your child. Sealants can be applied to your child’s molars to prevent decay on hard to clean surfaces.
- Create awareness about the importance of milk teeth and prevention programs to avoid early childhood caries
- Decrease the child’s anxiety level and to provide painless dental treatment under inhalation sedation (laughing gas)
- Incorporate preventive and interceptive orthodontics at the early mixed dentition stage, to prevent severely malalligned teeth / growth abnormalities of the jaw, in the growing children.