Myth: Baby teeth don’t really matter because they are going to fall out and be replaced by permanent teeth
Reality: Neglecting baby teeth could result in lifelong dental issues for a child
In the USA alone a quarter of all children between ages of 2 to 5 have cavities according to a study at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some parents may think it's not really important as those teeth are going to fall out anyway.
Skipping brushing can be tempting if a toddler puts up a fight. Or if your child is a picky eater it's easy allow them to snack on tasty carbohydrates instead. However this is a recipe for cavities. Plus once the damage is done, it’s not as easy as just extracting them and waiting for the permanent teeth to come in.
Pre-schoolers who end up with cavities in their baby teeth are 3 times as likely as other pre-school children to later develop cavities in their permanent teeth, according to a 2002 study published in the Journal of Dental Research. Another study found that the oral health of a 5 year old is a strong predictor of even greater decay and disease in later life, especially for poor children.
Causes are varied, e.g. from not brushing with fluoride twice daily or from continually sipping sugary drinks. However, it is also because the bacteria which causes cavities can signify an infectious disease. Just one decayed, brown-mottled tooth falling out can indicate that an infection is embedded and may continue to ravage a child’s mouth.
Another reason to restore a decayed baby tooth is because, if it is left untreated, it could become abscessed, resulting in an emergency situation. Between 2000 to 2008 at least 67 people in the USA actually died after being hospitalized with oral infections.
However, just pulling out a decayed tooth can cause problems as primary teeth are place holders for the adult ones to come. If a place holder is absent, adjacent teeth may drift into the space. These can then block the growth of the permanent tooth.
Ways to Keep Baby Teeth Healthy
- Take your baby to the dentist by age one or within 6 months of first tooth erupting
- Brush twice a day with baby fomulated toothpaste
- Limit snacks and juice boxes to be consumed within a 15-minute period. This ensures a child’s teeth are not constantly taking an acidic bath.
- Make sure an adult does the brushing until a child has the dexterity to do it properly. Some dentists say this is roughly when they can tie their own shoelaces
- Tooth decay is bacterial and can be spread between persons. Be careful with kissing or sharing food, especially if you are sick.