Baby’s teeth: The beginning of a beautiful smile

  • Published
  • By Maj. Jennifer Hasslen
  • 319th Medical Group
Contrary to popular belief, baby teeth are not just for babies. Do you realize that some of those baby teeth need to last a child until age 12 or 13 in many cases? It has been a common misconception in the past and present alike that "milk" teeth, as they are sometimes called, are inconsequential since they will be replaced by the permanent teeth. However, this is not the case.

Baby teeth start appearing in the mouth around the age of six months and erupt until the child is roughly two and a half years old. The American Dental Association recommends that your child has his or her first visit to the dentist no later than six months after the first tooth erupts, and no later than their first birthday.

Because teeth are susceptible to dental caries or decay as soon as they appear in the mouth, making an appointment with your dentist is crucial. At these appointments, the dentist can take a look at the child's teeth, discuss dietary concerns, and give guidance on assisting your child with his or her oral hygiene.

In regard to oral hygiene, it is recommended that you start cleaning your baby's teeth as soon as they appear. This can be done with a very soft baby toothbrush or with a warm washcloth. It should be accomplished 2 times a day, one certainly before bedtime. Once baby is capable of holding the brush themselves, let them have a go at it and then you can assist finishing up. Fluoride toothpaste can be used but should be just a light smear on the bristle ends as kids tend to swallow it and too much can give them a tummy ache.
What else can you do to prevent cavities in your little ones? One of the major risk factors for early childhood caries (sometimes called baby bottle tooth decay) is frequent and prolonged exposure of a baby's teeth to liquids containing sugar, including milk, breast milk, formula and fruit juice. It does not matter whether this is coming from a bottle or sippy-cup. Children should not be put to bed with anything to drink, and only water should be offered before bedtime if the child is thirsty.

Early childhood caries can be extremely devastating and debilitating. Often times, parents do not notice the decay until it may be too late to save the tooth, or until an infection has arisen. With therapy such as root canals and caps or crowns, these teeth can sometimes be saved, but these appointments are usually not enjoyable for anyone, especially the little one.

So remember, these baby teeth are not just for babies. These teeth need to be cared for just like adult teeth. Those cute, little, and very sharp teeth serve a vital and important role in saving space for those big adult teeth to fit into the mouth. Regular dental visits are the only way to be sure that your baby's teeth are healthy and fit to last them until the tooth fairy is ready to come claim them from under their pillow.