Most of us know that babies are born with all their teeth sitting in their gums patiently waiting to push through, but did you know that they should start going to the dentist in the first year too?
As soon as a baby passes that wonderful (and painful) first tooth milestone, normal adult-like dental care habits are required, such as brushing and flossing (if two teeth touch) twice a day, as well as an annual trip to the dentist.
Starting this habit early is very important because the enamel on milk teeth is much thinner than permanent teeth. You may be very conscience of not feeding your baby excess sugar, but the sugar in bananas, apple juice and formula are enough to cause tooth decay.
If a milk tooth is lost prematurely, it could have a snowball effect on a baby’s development because teeth are not just there for chewing. We use our teeth to form certain sounds and without them, speech development will be affected, and speech therapy sessions may be required. Milk teeth are also the place holders for future teeth. Without them there to guide the rest, could mean crooked teeth and braces in high school.
It’s good to instill good habits from the start so that it becomes the norm. We all brush our teeth before we head out in the mornings, and again before bed. It’s just what we do. If a toddler only learns to do this at age three or four, it’s not their norm and it becomes a chore… and we all know how much kids hate chores.
It also teaches children the importance of taking care of themselves and that their health is their personal responsibility. Nearly all dental issues such as tooth decay and gum disease, can be prevented by good dental hygiene and yearly checkups. We may think our teeth look good when we smile in the mirror, but we can’t see what’s going on in between them. The use of pacifiers and thumb sucking also affect the way teeth grow, so it’s worthwhile asking a dentist if everything is OK or if some intervention may be needed.
On a more serious note, some pre-existing health conditions affect teeth too. People with chronic respiratory problems take a lot of oral antibiotics and this wears down the enamel. The bacteria causing a tooth infection, might also cause havoc for their lungs.
All though not all babies have chronic illnesses, they all have teeth, so let’s help them to take good care of their pearly whites.