Dental care is a critical part of keeping your child healthy from their first birthday into adulthood. The earliest risks to a child’s oral health are cooked tooth growth from sucking on pacifiers and baby bottle tooth decay, both of which can cause serious problems.

According to the Center for Pediatric Dentistry, “Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 40 percent of children have decay by the time they reach kindergarten. Here in Washington State, nearly 60 percent of elementary school-age children suffer from preventable dental decay. More than one in five have cavities in at least seven teeth.”

Decay in baby teeth commonly occurs when bacteria from sugars in the child’s food and beverages forms into acid. This acid damages the enamel of your child’s teeth, leading to demineralization and eventually, cavities.

Although the primary teeth will fall out later in childhood, the early developmental stages are critical for your child’s future dental health – even affecting the health of their adult teeth, how they will grow, and the strength of the enamel. And of course, kids need their primary teeth for biting, chewing, and speaking for the first six years of their life, until they begin to fall out and are replaced with their adult teeth.

In extreme cases, due to poor oral health, your child’s primary teeth may fall out before they should. This is a serious problem, since the primary teeth are needed to serve as guides for the correct eruption and placement of their permanent adult teeth. When their baby teeth fall out early, as a result of decay or gum disease, the permanent teeth may grow in crooked or misplaced, requiring expensive orthodontic treatment to correct.

All children should have their first appointment with a dentist when their first tooth erupts or by their first birthday – whichever comes first – as advised by the American Dental Association and the Academy of Pediatrics. An initial check-in and cleaning will allow the dentist to identify any decay or potential risks to the child’s oral health, while deep cleaning to form a foundation of healthy teeth and gums. In addition, the dentist will advise you on the best methods to protect and maintain your child’s teeth and gums.

Featured photo source: Pixabay.com

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