Common Oversights in Caring for Baby Teeth—And Why You Should Avoid Them

Babies begin teething around 6 months of age, and they start losing these teeth when they're about 5 or 6 years old. Though the baby teeth are temporary, they are of utmost importance for a child's overall health and future dental health. For this reason, it is essential that you, as a parent, do all that you can to keep your child's baby teeth in good shape. Here's a closer look at why baby teeth are so important, a few common oversights parents make when it comes to caring for them.

Why Are Baby Teeth So Important?

They allow children to chew properly.

Your growing and developing child has specific nutrient needs. The baby teeth allow him or her to chew these foods comfortably. If your child's baby teeth are not well cared for and begin causing him or her pain, your child may struggle to eat. This can lead to malnutrition and failure to eat certain crunchier foods like fruits and veggies.

They allow for proper speech.

Your child needs his or her teeth for proper tongue placement to make sounds like "la" and "th." If the teeth experience decay and cause your child pain, this may deter him or her from placing the tongue against them and making these sounds properly. This could impact your child's speech development for years. Not to mention, tooth pain can distract a child form learning and engaging in helpful play.

They guide the adult teeth into place.

The baby teeth serve as "placeholders" for the adult teeth. They essentially guide the adult teeth down into place. If your child loses his or her baby teeth prematurely due to decay or other issues, the adult teeth may not come in straight. A crooked smile is not only unattractive, but quite expensive to fix with braces!

What Are Some Common Oversights In Caring For Baby Teeth?

Not taking the child to the dentist soon enough.

The American Dental Association recommends taking your child to his or her first dental checkup as soon as the first tooth appears, or no later than the first birthday. This way, any dental issues will be caught as early as possible. The dentist can also make sure you are properly cleaning your baby's new teeth.

Using an adult toothbrush for your child's teeth.

When your baby is very little, your dentist will likely recommend cleaning his or her teeth with a toothbrush made especially or babies. These are typically made with soft rubber rather than stiff bristles. Even when your child is old enough to brush his or her own teeth, it's best to provide your child with a small, child-sized toothbrush. They'll be better able to fit this brush into their mouths and reach their back teeth. Child-friendly toothbrushes also tend to have softer bristles, so they won't irritate your child's gums.

Letting your child drink too much juice.

Juice is often touted as a "healthy" beverage, but it is quite high in sugar. Letting your child drink juice all day exposes the teeth to a lot of sugar, which perpetuates tooth decay. Give your child water to drink throughout the day, and only provide juice at mealtimes. Not only will you be avoiding sugar, but the fluoride in the water will help strengthen your child's tooth enamel to prevent cavities.

Letting your child continue to suck on a thumb or pacifier.

Most children naturally stop this behavior on their own. However, children who do not stop on their own should be encouraged to stop. Thumb and pacifier sucking can cause the mouth to be misshapen or cause the adult teeth to come in misaligned. If your child is still sucking a thumb or pacifier when they get to the age when their baby teeth should be falling out soon, see your pediatric dentist. He or she may be able to put a special device in place to discourage the sucking.

With the tips above, you'll stand a better chance of keeping your child's baby teeth in good  health. As a result, the adult teeth will be better off, too! Contact a representative from an establishment like Kids First Pediatric Dentistry for more information.