Baby teeth may not last forever, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t extremely important. In fact, they are just as important to babies and kids as your adult teeth are to you! Here are five things every parent definitely needs to know about baby teeth.
1. They save a spot for adult teeth: Baby teeth are placeholders for adult teeth, and help them to grow in straight. When baby teeth come out too early—due to decay or an accident—other teeth nearby might drift into the empty space, blocking the incoming adult tooth. This can lead to crowding and the need for braces later on. If a baby tooth is badly decayed, it may have to be pulled. In this case, the dentist might recommend that something called a space maintainer be put in where the tooth used to be.
2. They help children chew food and speak clearly: If kids are missing several baby teeth, they may not be able to fully chew their food. This can cause tummy aches and prevent children from getting all the nutrients they need for their growing bodies. Baby teeth are also very important when it comes to children learning to speak clearly. Losing certain teeth too early can make it difficult to correctly say some words and might cause long term problems down the road.
3. Cavities grow faster in baby teeth: Baby teeth are different from adult teeth in that the outer layer of the teeth (the enamel) is much thinner, and the layer just under that (dentin) is much softer. Because of this, cavities can eat through baby teeth surprisingly quickly. With regular dental checkups, little cavities can get filled before they grow into a gaping hole.
4. Cavities hurt at any age: For children with untreated cavities, there is a good chance their little mouths are in pain. This can make it hard to focus in school and may lead to them feeling upset or grumpy much of the time. Living with the nagging pain of a toothache is no fun at all, so get those tiny teeth looked at asap!
5. Healthy baby teeth give kids confidence: There is so much to smile about when you’re a kid. But when a child is living with badly decayed teeth, the last thing they want to do is smile. Having to face the world with damaged, discolored, or cavity-filled teeth can make it difficult to be social and make friends. A healthy smile makes it easier to be a happy child.
Healthy baby teeth lead to healthy adult teeth, but they also do so much more. You can do your part by making sure your children brush after meals, floss daily, and see the dentist twice a year. And if you spot a cavity, get to the dentist right away! Every kid deserves to have a healthy, happy smile.