Little teeth, big smiles

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Crystal Jarvis
  • 509th Medical Operations Squadron
While they may be small, and aren't permanent, deciduous (baby) teeth play a critical role in the development of a child's mouth. Unfortunately, not many individuals realize how important these teeth really are.

Have you ever heard the phrase, "They're only baby teeth, it's not like he/she won't get more?" The truth of the matter is, baby teeth are just as crucial to the proper development of a child as adult teeth.

Baby teeth begin forming during the sixth week of pregnancy, but do not become visible in the mouth until around six months of age. These teeth are important for several reasons. Without a fully functioning set of teeth, children cannot chew the food they need to receive proper nutrients for growth. 

Baby teeth are also needed to hold and/or save space in the jaws for the permanent teeth to arrive. This is a must for proper alignment of the teeth. Without space maintenance, the teeth can be severely crowded or spaced. A child's speech development can also be greatly affected by the early loss of teeth or space maintenance problems.

Quality of life is yet another reason to ensure the health of baby teeth. If a child has untreated decay, pain can and will eventually arise. Regardless of age, an individual's quality of life can be severely diminished when pain is involved.

Finally, baby teeth are important for a child's self-esteem. Premature tooth loss and noticeable decay in a child may tempt playground taunts from the "kids being kids" crowd ... leading to a loss of confidence or self-worth.

Proper home care and sound oral hygiene habits help to ensure that your child's baby and permanent teeth are always healthy. Therefore, make sure that you brush your child's teeth at least twice daily using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste ... if they are able to spit on their own. If they are not able to spit, use only water for brushing.

Start flossing your child's teeth at an early age. Dentists recommend beginning as soon as the first two teeth touch. While this may not be an easy habit to maintain at first, it gets easier as your child gets older.

Regular dental visits should also be scheduled, please check with your insurance company for plan coverage. The American Dental Association recommends children be seen by a dentist as soon as his or her first tooth erupts, but no later than the first birthday.

Remember, the health and maintenance of baby teeth is critical to the overall development of a child. Make sure your little one has a happy, healthy smile!