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Why baby teeth are important
Senior Airman Laura Squires, 436th Dental Squadron dental technician, demonstrates how to floss on Dennis the Alligator, while Senior Airman Ashton Collins, 436th Dental Squadron dental technician, demonstrates how to brush your teeth on Mr. Yuck Mouth Jan. 24, 2013, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Squires and Collins were practicing for Children’s Dental Health Month, when members of the 436th DS will travel to local schools to promote dental health to students. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chuck Walker)
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Why baby teeth are important

Posted 1/29/2013   Updated 1/29/2013 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Laura Squires
436th Dental Squadron

1/29/2013 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- February is Children's Health Month. It's important to know what an important role primary or baby teeth have in the development of a child's dental health throughout their lifetime.

Primary teeth are normally lost, but it is important that they serve their time, and do so in a healthy manner.

Healthy baby teeth help to aid in the normal development of jaw bones and facial muscles that allow children to chew their food. If baby/primary teeth are lost prematurely due to decay or infection, the child may have difficulty chewing their food which could lead to digestive problems and malnutrition.

Also, primary teeth serve as space maintainers. Primary teeth hold the space in the jaws until the permanent teeth are ready to erupt and take their place. If baby teeth are lost too early, the other teeth can drift out of their position and move into the empty space. This movement can cause the permanent teeth to come in crooked which can lead to an unaesthetic smile and an improper bite.

Finally, having unhealthy or missing baby teeth can negatively affect a child's psychological well-being. Speech development is fostered by healthy primary teeth; think of how a child's speech changes when they begin losing their front teeth. Early loss of these baby teeth can cause difficulty in a child being able to form words and speak clearly, and may persist until the permanent front teeth are in place; around 7-9 years of age. Indeed, a child's self-image can be affected if primary teeth are broken, decayed or missing.

Dental hygiene is essential to achieving and maintaining optimum oral health. A child's oral hygiene should begin within just a few days after birth. Immediately after each feeding, wipe your baby's gums and inside of cheeks, roof of mouth and tongue with a damp, clean wash-cloth to remove plaque and film. Getting a baby used to oral hygiene will help to facilitate proper oral hygiene as they grow.

Later, when the teeth begin to erupt through the gums, brush them with a soft-bristled brush, but do not use toothpaste. Babies tend to swallow anything in their mouth and the toothpaste could upset the baby's stomach, and if fluoridated, could permanently affect developing teeth.

As the teeth are erupting, regularly check them for any changes, e.g. if you notice any dark stains or white patches on the teeth, see a dentist for an evaluation. Older children need to brush two times a day for two minutes; fun timers can assist with the two minutes portion. They can begin using fluoridated toothpaste when they are old enough to be trusted not to swallow the toothpaste.

When do I begin flossing my child's teeth? Good question. You should begin flossing your child's teeth when they begin to touch and there is no space between them. Flossing every day will assist in the prevention of cavities forming between teeth. Parents should help with their child's oral hygiene to make sure children are brushing all surfaces and flossing correctly.

Also, a child's diet plays a significant role in tooth decay. Limit your child's intake of soda, cookies and candy, especially of the "sticky" or "gummy" variety. These sugars will only increase the risk of tooth decay. Furthermore, never let your child fall asleep at naptime or bedtime with a bottle of anything other than water because formula, fruit juices and milk contain sugars and can cause cavities making dental care more difficult.

Every baby tooth is important to your child's long-term oral health. Remember, prevention is the key! Regular dental check-ups are an important part of your child's health and well-being. Parents having a positive attitude towards oral health will help develop life-long good habits in their children. Dental care is simple and essential for every happy, healthy smile.

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