We all have had two sets of dentitions in our lifespan. How many of us remember that when we were kids, our teeth had fallen off and new teeth came? We felt elated when a new tooth came up in the oral cavity. ‘Baby teeth’, also known as ‘milk teeth‘, are the set of teeth that are already present in the jaw during birth, they erupt around the age of six months to one year.
You might wonder why milk teeth are important because eventually, they are going to fall off. Is it important to preserve and take care of them? Most of us have this perception that since kids’ teeth will eventually fall off there is no need to get them treated or take care of them which is a popular misconception.
Why Are Milk Teeth Essential?
1) Mastication of Food:
At a growing age, taking proper nutrition becomes absolutely necessary in order to ensure adequate growth and development of the child. To have proper nutrition, it is important to maintain a proper diet.
Teeth play a crucial role in chewing food. Painful teeth and tooth cavities can lead to inadequate food intake and malnourishment in children.
2) Facial Appearance:
Teeth make a lot of difference in the appearance of a child. Also, teeth facilitate the development of the jaw bones.
3) Self-esteem and Confidence:
Crooked/malaligned teeth or the absence of teeth can result in low self-esteem and low confidence. Being teased and bullied has been seen in these situations which have resulted in a negative impact on the child.
Children learn to speak from the age of 02 years onwards and at that time, the milk teeth help in the pronunciation of certain words. Cavities or missing front teeth can lead to impaired speech development.
5) Space Maintenance:
When a tooth is knocked off prematurely, falls due to trauma or is destroyed due to cavities, it leaves a space that the other teeth tend to drift into. It can cause irregularities in subsequent teeth to come and space issues leading to crooked/malaligned permanent teeth. A natural tooth is stated to be the best space maintainer for the permanent tooth and should be preserved.
How Can Early Tooth Loss Affect Your Child?
Cavities in milk teeth affect a child’s oral and overall health. You might ponder upon the misconception that if teeth are going to fall out, let it be the way it is. Destruction by cavities causes pain and swelling due to the infection (pus formation), which can be severe if not treated.
The daily routine of the child can be affected by dental problems, you might notice some children are not able to perform certain activities due to pain and discomfort. The parent/ guardian should take the child for routine check-ups and prevent such problems.
Is Being Born with an Erupted Tooth Common?
As we know, milk teeth appear generally 06 months after the birth of an infant, but sometimes infants are born with teeth already present in their mouth. It is relatively rare but absolutely nothing to worry about.
Teeth already present at birth are called natal teeth. The ones that erupt within the 1st month are called neonatal teeth. They are generally extracted if they are loose to prevent swallowing by the infant and if they cause feeding issues to the mother or child. Consult your dentist for the management of such teeth.
How Can You Ensure Proper Care for Your Child’s Milk Teeth?
The overall health of a kid is related to primary oral health. The health of the baby teeth determine the health of the permanent dentition. The first visit to the dentist should be within 06 months of the eruption of the first tooth. This visit mainly consists of:
- A preliminary check-up.
- Advice on how to clean the baby’s teeth/gum pads.
- The amount and type of toothpaste to be used according to the age of the child. Dentists recommend using pea-sized fluoridated toothpaste from 03 years of age and non – fluoridated toothpaste before that.
- Counselling about common habits that might cause dental problems later on, for example, nail-biting, thumb-sucking, mouth-breathing, etc.
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Now, as we know how important baby teeth are, they should be taken care of proactively. Children should be taught and trained about how to maintain good oral hygiene with the help of their parents/guardians and the dentist. These habits pave a way for overall good oral and systemic health and a healthy lifestyle.
“Good habit formed at youth makes all the difference” – Aristotle
By Dr Shagorika Choudhury