Why Fix Baby Teeth?
Parents are often surprised and dismayed to learn their children have tooth decay. The need to repair or restore the baby teeth may be questioned because, after all, they are going to fall out. The following information will help you to understand the need to obtain a dental examination for your little one by two years of age and why restoring the baby teeth is so very important.
Twenty primary (baby) teeth are usually present by three years of age. Before the teeth erupt into the mouth, most of the bacteria that cause tooth decay are swallowed with food or saliva. When the first tooth appears, usually around six months of age, there is now a surface for bacteria to adhere to and multiply. Your baby's cheeks and tongue should be wiped with a clean, wet wash cloth or paper towel after every feeding. Wipe your baby's mouth as often as you wipe his or her bottom! Spiffies Dental Wipes are a great choice for cleaning your infant's mouth.
The enamel on primary teeth is very thin and decays much more rapidly than permanent teeth. Once decay begins, you will first notice a flat appearance to the enamel, then a white spot appears. This white spot indicates the earliest sign of decay and can quickly progress to a cavity. Continued frequent exposure to juice or any liquid other than water in a baby bottle or sippy cup will cause decay of the upper front primary incisors. Children rarely complain of any discomfort with dental decay, even with a large cavity. Parents must be aware of any dark spots or holes in the teeth. Decay, unlike a cold, does not go away without treatment. Parents often delay seeing a dentist due to concerns that the child is unable to cooperate for treatment. If decay is caught early, drilling may not be necessary. Delay will result in much more extensive, expensive treatment.
The primary teeth must be present to help guide the proper path of eruption for the permanent teeth. The eight baby molars are usually lost between nine and twelve years of age. If a baby molar is lost early due to decay, the six-year molar may move forward in the jaw, closing the space for the teeth that replace the baby molars. A space maintainer is necessary if a primary molar is lost too early, but if the six year molar has not yet erupted, this can be a very difficult problem to manage, causing more treatment needs for many years to come.
Before age two, the upper front baby teeth (incisors) are necessary for normal speech development. The facial appearance will also be effected by the early loss of the primary incisors.
Abscess of the primary tooth may occur if decay is not treated. A bubble may appear on the gum above or below the tooth and pus may drain from it. Once fever, pain and facial swelling have occurred, immediate treatment is necessary. This tooth will probably need to be extracted. In some cases, the child must be hospitalized.
The premolars that replace the primary molars develop in the bone between the root just below the primary molars. Extraction of a primary molar in a very young child may result in the inadvertent extraction of a premolar.
Decay can spread from one tooth to another through direct contact or by shedding into the saliva exposing all of the other teeth in the mouth. Children who experience decay of the primary teeth are more likely to experience decay in the permanent teeth. By removing the decay and restoring the teeth, the numbers of decay-causing bacteria are significantly reduced. Topical fluoride in the form of toothpaste and in-office fluoride treatments will help to strengthen the enamel.
Tooth decay can significantly effect the quality of a child's life. If a child has a toothache or pain with chewing, he will not be able to eat properly. Growth and weight gain, sleep patterns, behavior and school performance may be negatively influenced.
What Can You Do?
Schedule the first dental visit no later than two years of age. Brush your child’s teeth until he or she is six years of age. Floss between the baby molars if the spaces are closed. Avoid constant snacking on crackers, chips, juice or soft drinks and nothing but water in a baby bottle after one year of age. Do not delay treatment due to your own fears. Pediatric dental specialists are competent and confident in treating young children. Your knowledge and efforts toward good dental care will influence your child’s oral health for the rest of his or her life. We can work together to keep that beautiful little smile a healthy one!