Baby teeth are precious. Though teething may be painful for everyone involved, those tiny little teeth offer up the sweetest smiles – and who doesn’t love the joy the tooth fairy brings to little ones? Still, from a health perspective, as charming as baby teeth are, they generally don’t seem very important. After all, children begin losing these teeth, also known as deciduous or milk teeth, around age six, replacing them with their permanent, adult teeth. In reality, though, baby teeth play a critical role in your child’s health, and it’s important to take good care of them.
Tooth Decay And Premature Loss
While baby teeth are temporary, shedding them too early can indicate several different issues, including trauma and tooth decay, and this can cause long-term problems with tooth spacing and alignment. For that reason, experts recommend developing an oral care routine from birth.
Caregivers should wipe down infants’ gums, and even those first baby teeth need to be brushed. Additionally, children should have their first dentist’s appointment by age one, to carefully monitor their oral health.
Speech And Spacing
One major, overlooked reason that milk teeth are so important to young children’s health and development has to do with their structural and functional purpose. As baby teeth grow in, your child’s facial structure forms around them. If they suffer early tooth decay or lose their teeth too early, it can cause malformation of the facial muscles, an odd face shape, or impact your child’s speech, leading to long-term pronunciation issues. It can also impact how adult teeth grow in, causing them to be crowded or overlapping, since the baby teeth weren’t there to maintain overall oral structure.
Consider Future Cures
Many parents save their children’s baby teeth in a box somewhere, at least for a few years, as a way to recall this phase of their children’s lives. That’s fine if your commitment is just to sentimentality, but as it turns out, your child’s teeth may have much greater value. According to Tooth Bank, baby teeth are a rich source of mesenchymal stem cells, which can be used to treat a range of diseases including Type 1 Diabetes, heart damage from myocardial infarctions, spinal cord injuries, and even some neurological disorders. Parents should consider formally banking their children’s baby teeth so they can access these cell lines should the need arise.
Achievement And Appearance
Children develop at such different rates and are so much less judgmental than adults that it’s easy to think that some prematurely missing baby teeth aren’t likely to cause much of a problem – but think again. Though children do begin losing their teeth as early as age four in some cases, other children will notice when their peers are noticeably different, and they will comment. Children with damaged or missing baby teeth may experience low self-esteem, may be especially shy in social situations, and are also more likely to have poor school achievement due to pain or discomfort from their oral health problems. Simply put, as with so much else about our health, early oral health is connected to many more significant issues.
Though caring for your child’s baby teeth may not be on the top of your list of priorities, and many children will balk at tooth brushing or flossing, this should be non-negotiable, just like taking a bath or going to the pediatrician. While they may not appreciate it now, your little ones will thank you later when they have a complete, sparkling smile.