The first primary tooth, or baby tooth, erupts between 6 months to one year of age. The timing is different for each individual, but all 20 baby teeth are usually in by three years of age.
Baby teeth are extremely important for a variety of reasons.
- Help children chew food easily and properly to maintain healthy nutrition
- Help children develop proper speech and speak more quickly and clearly
- Help jaw formation by maintaining space and eruption paths for permanent teeth
- Help develop self -esteem and set the stage for a lifetime of healthy smiles
Baby teeth are also just as prone to cavities as adult teeth. In fact, more than 50 percent of children will be affected by tooth decay before the age five, so you want to keep those cavities away to avoid an early loss of a tooth.
When a baby tooth is lost too early, the permanent teeth can drift into the empty space and make it difficult for other adult teeth to find a room when it’s their turn to erupt, this could lead to other orthodontic problems in their teen years.
Early childhood decay
Early childhood caries (ECC) is a common and severe form of cavities found in very young children (0-4 years of age). Without treatment, decay can spread deeper into the tooth, causing pain and infection and even damage to the underlying adult tooth.
Contributing factors to early childhood decay:
- Diets high in sugar
- A high frequency of snacking and/or frequent meals as well as sticky and sugary snacks.
- Sustained use of the baby bottle or sippy cup (especially at bed-time)
- Lack of tooth brushing and flossing
- Limited access to fluoridated water
To prevent cavities:
- Keep your child’s teeth clean. This is the easiest way to keep teeth healthy.
- Limit sugar-filled foods and drinks (particularly for babies). Milk, juice, and formula all contain sugar. Avoid using the bottle and sippy cup to soothe your child. Fill them with water instead.
- Visit the dentist by age one or within six months of when you see the first tooth. Through regular examinations, your dentist will monitor the development of your child’s teeth and gums to catch problems early and prevent disease.
Proper oral hygiene is important as soon as your baby is born. Establishing good oral habits early will go a long way, even beyond impressing the tooth fairy!
Corne Smith Dentistry, Claremont, Cape Town loves children, and we love taking care of our little patients, not only for great oral health but also to create a comfortable friendly environment so the little tots will grow up not “hating” or fearing a dentist.