Your baby’s first teeth are the first of many exciting development milestones. Caring for them early and knowing what lies ahead in your child’s oral development can help ensure she or he has a healthy, beautiful smile for life.
What teeth are baby teeth?
Baby teeth can also sometimes be referred to as primary teeth, deciduous teeth, or milk teeth. They are already present in the jaw at birth, but the first tooth will not erupt until about six months of age. From then until your child is age two and a half or three, approximately four new teeth will erupt every six months. The set of 20 teeth begin erupting in the middle for both the top and the bottom, while the molars in the back are the last to appear.
Baby teeth will begin to fall out when your child turns six or seven, although some children may be early or late in losing their first tooth. They will usually fall out in the same order they came in—front to back—to make room for the permanent adult teeth that have been developing below the gum line and are ready to erupt.
Why are baby teeth important?
Even though they will eventually fall out, baby teeth help lay the foundation for your child’s development in speaking, chewing, and smiling, allowing the facial muscles to function and develop properly. Baby teeth must be small because the jaws aren’t large enough or strong enough to accommodate the size and number of teeth your child will need as an adult. However, they do serve to save space for the adult teeth that are developing under the gums as your child grows.
Baby teeth that fall out or must be removed too early—such as from tooth decay or an accident—can prevent permanent teeth from erupting properly. The jaw may not develop correctly, or teeth may come in crowded, crooked, or with weak roots. The eruption of the adult teeth may even be delayed altogether if bone has grown in over the space.
Caring for baby teeth
Baby teeth require the same attention and care as adult teeth. Despite their impermanence, baby teeth can still develop cavities that, if left untreated, can become infected, cause pain, or even damage the underlying roots and developing adult teeth, creating life-long dental problems.
Begin caring for your child’s teeth as soon as the first baby tooth erupts. Smear a tiny bit of fluoride toothpaste—about the size of a grain of rice—on a small, soft bristle toothbrush and gently brush their teeth (or tooth) and gums.
You can also schedule an initial pediatric dentist visit as soon as they are old enough to sit relatively calmly in a chair (you can always hold them during the appointment). While there may not be enough teeth for a cleaning, this preliminary visit is a great opportunity to introduce your child to the dentists and familiarize them with the office and doctor. Practicing going to the dentist early can help alleviate the fear and anxiety many children experience at the uncertainty of a dental cleaning.
Protecting baby teeth
Your baby’s new teeth need help to stay clean and cavity-free. In addition to cleaning your child’s teeth, there are several things you can do to help keep them healthy, prevent decay, and promote proper development.
- If they are still drinking from a bottle, do not put them to bed with a bottle.
- Don’t use a bottle or sippy cup for extended periods. Teach your child to drink from a regular cup.
- If your child has to have a sippy cup or bottle, such as for long car rides, fill it with water.
- Limit the amount of juice, sweet, or sticky foods you give your child. Offer juice only during meal times or not at all.
Fluoride treatments and dental sealants can offer added protection to your child’s teeth as well. Fluoride treatments, either from your child’s dentist or pediatrician, help strengthen the enamel of your child’s teeth, rebuilding it and making it more resistant to the bacteria and acids that cause tooth decay.
When applied to hard-to-clean teeth susceptible to harboring cavity-causing bacteria, like molars or other teeth with deep pits or grooves, dental sealants can dramatically reduce the risk of developing tooth decay. Sealants are simple and painless for the dentist to apply and can last as long as 5 or 10 years, helping you and your child avoid the need for more costly and invasive procedures like fillings or crowns.
What do I do with baby teeth when they fall out?
What you do with your child’s teeth is up to you. Many parents keep their children’s baby teeth in a keepsake box or even a plastic baggie. Some parents even throw them away. Recently, scientists have figured out how to preserve baby teeth for stem cells in case your child develops a medical need for them later.
Sentimental attachment aside, teaching your child the proper way to care for their new adult teeth is probably more important than what you decide to do with the old baby ones. Kids should be taught early on that these permanent teeth are just that—permanent!—and that they are the only teeth we get.
Pediatric Dental Care at Dental Depot Oklahoma
Dental Depot Oklahoma is committed to caring for the dental health of your entire family, child to adult, at every stage of life. We encourage you to bring your child in for a visit by or soon after their first birthday so they can meet the dentist. Not only does this make everyone feel more comfortable, but it gives our dental experts a chance to identify any potential problems and stay ahead of any developmental issues.
Dental Depot Oklahoma is passionate about prevention. That’s why we make it easy for you to schedule the routine cleanings and checkups your child needs to keep a healthy smile. With flexible scheduling, Saturday appointments, and even the option to schedule everyone in your family at the same time, getting the dental care your child deserves is fast and convenient.
Whether you’re in Oklahoma City or Tulsa, there is a Dental Depot Oklahoma location to serve you. To find your nearest office or to schedule an appointment, click here.