It is a sobering reality that pediatric tooth decay is the #1 preventable childhood disease. Yes, you read that right. Tooth decay in children is more prevalent than any other type of health condition. There are many reasons and causes for this. Parents, especially new parents want to give their child tasty foods and drinks, most of which are loaded with sugar. In an effort avoid a temper-tantrum over eating, parents are giving their children food and drinks that may have a yummy taste, but has less than ideal amount of nutrients.
Baby Teeth Importance
Another one of the biggest reasons many children get cavities is the misconception about the importance of baby teeth and their care.
Baby teeth, also called primary teeth, begin to grow in around three months of age. By the age of two years old, a child would have all their baby teeth. It is at this time that pediatric dentists recommend parents bring in their child for his or her first dental checkup and tooth cleaning. Primary teeth begin to fall out around the age of six years. The last of the baby teeth fall out around the age of 12. From the age of two years and 12 years old, parents and subsequently their kids, have the assumption of baby teeth being unimportant. This kind of thinking has led to the thinking that baby teeth aren’t important because they will fall out anyways. What is the purpose of caring for them?
This false thinking has helped contribute to the prevalence of pediatric tooth decay. When children are fed food with sugar, are allowed to go to bed with a bottle of milk and don’t have their teeth regularly brushed, plaque, germs and bacteria flourish.
Primary teeth, however, are important. They enable a child to eat and speak properly and clearly. They also help to ensure proper growth and correct alignment of permanent teeth coming up underneath. Baby teeth also help the jaws to develop and strengthen.
What Happens With a Lack of Proper Care?
Tooth decay, or cavities, of primary teeth have potentially greater ramifications than what many parents recognize. When baby teeth become decayed, the result could be premature extraction, gum disease or the spread of the disease to nearby teeth or into the incoming adult teeth growing in underneath.
Premature extraction. When a baby tooth requires extraction or falls out prematurely due to extensive tooth decay, a child’s ability to clearly speak and eat efficiently may be temporarily compromised. The gap left behind can cause the other nearby teeth to shift and grow in crooked or out of correct alignment. Without the protection of the baby tooth overhead, the up and coming permanent tooth can experience developmental problems.
Gum disease. Gum disease can happen in children and adults. Gum disease is caused by improper care of the teeth and gums. While the mild form of gum disease, gingivitis, is common and can be reversed, it can progress into the more severe form of periodontitis. At this later stage, teeth can be lost and the bone tissue of the jaws can become weak and compromised.
Infection of permanent teeth. The tooth decay of a primary tooth can seep down into the underlying adult tooth. When this permanent tooth comes in already with a cavity, it will immediately get a filling or a crown, depending on how extensive the cavity is. Either one of these treatments can be demoralizing for a young patient and heighten their fear of the dentist even more.
Proper Baby Teeth Care
It is recommended that parents use a soft, damp washcloth to wipe their child’s gums after each feeding. This occurs before the baby teeth erupt. As more teeth come in, use a small, kids’ sized toothbrush and water and gently brush the teeth. Once all the baby teeth are in, move up to using a child’s toothpaste. Be sure to only use a small amount. By the age of eight parents should allow their children to brush their teeth on their own.
Contrary to what many parents think, baby teeth are important and require proper attention and care. When primary teeth aren’t cared for, pediatric tooth decay can occur. This in turn can affect the teeth, gums and underlying permanent teeth. Brushing the teeth multiple times a day, flossing and regular visits to the dentist every six months are the best ways to take care of both primary and adult teeth.