Most people think of baby teeth as an expendable first set of teeth that aren’t that important to care for since they’ll fall out or be removed eventually anyway. However, baby teeth, or deciduous teeth, are just as sensitive to decay and damage as adult teeth, and their level of upkeep can greatly affect a child’s dental health moving forward.
Most children will grow their first tooth between the ages of 6 months and 1 year old and will likely have all 20 of their baby teeth by the age of 3. Typically, children will have lost all of their baby teeth and grown in their permanent adult teeth by 11 or 12. In order to make the transition from baby teeth to adult teeth as smooth as possible for your child, it’s important to understand baby teeth and the functions they perform. Here are 5 important facts to be aware of when it comes to baby teeth and their effect on a child’s dental health.
- Baby teeth can experience decay. The term “Baby Bottle Tooth Decay” refers to decay that occurs from sugary drinks being fed to babies and toddlers in bottles. In order to avoid this, children should only drink water or milk in bottles and bottles should be set aside before naptime.
- Baby teeth affect speech development. Every person’s individual speech pattern relies greatly on the shape of their teeth and whether any crowding is occurring. This is particularly true when children are just learning to talk, as whatever baby teeth they’ve already grown in will determine how they learn to form certain vowels and consonants. If their development of baby teeth is slow going or the shape of their teeth has been altered by decay, it will affect their ability to learn proper speech techniques at a very young age, affecting their speech for years to come.
- Baby teeth act as a guide for future permanent teeth. The spacing and locations of baby teeth determine where adult teeth will grow in their place after the baby teeth have fallen out. This is why it’s important to make sure baby teeth are kept clean and healthy throughout their lifespan; if baby teeth are decayed to the point of falling out or having to be removed early, the natural progression of adult tooth growth will be altered, causing potential crowding or decay problems in the future.
- Dentist visits should start around a child’s first birthday. In order to ensure your child’s dental health throughout their childhood, regular dental appointments are a must. Your child’s first visit to the dentist should be scheduled when their first tooth starts to show, usually at around a year old or younger.
- Breastfeeding can prevent crooked teeth. Several recent studies have shown that babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months are much less likely to develop tooth alignment issues once their baby teeth come in. Since adult teeth develop according to the location and alignment of baby teeth, breastfeeding can actually encourage well-aligned permanent teeth in the future for children as young as a few months old.