Your baby’s teeth, when they begin to show, will fill you with joy, because they are a reminder that your little one is growing. However, these pearly-whites also need a lot of tender loving care, to ensure the total health of your child.

What are milk teeth?

The milk teeth are the first set of teeth that appears in your baby’s mouth. We also call them child’s teeth, primary teeth, deciduous teeth, baby teeth or temporary teeth. These teeth are 20 in number and will give way to the permanent or adult teeth later in childhood. The first primary tooth shows at about 6 months of age and the last appears at about age 3 years.

Why should you care for your baby’s milk teeth?

Milk teeth help children to chew and talk well. They are beautiful when clean. You must keep them healthy till they fall because they will guide your child’s adult teeth into his mouth. Otherwise, the adult teeth may be crooked.

Germs infect milk teeth easily compared to permanent teeth. Diseases like tooth decay progress faster in them than in the permanent teeth. Also, infections of the milk teeth may affect the buds of the developing adult teeth beneath the milk teeth. If you care for your baby’s teeth, it inculcates good oral hygiene habits in him as he grows.  Hence, you must care for them diligently

How to care for milk teeth

From birth till your child’s 1st birthday, use a moistened gauze or washcloth to gently clean your baby’s teeth and gums. There are also some soft plastic bristles you can wear over your finger and use to clean baby’s gums and teeth. From about age 1, use soft children’s toothbrushes in cleaning their teeth. Use children’s toothpastes containing fluoride, but only in pea-sized amounts at each brushing. Ensure that the toothpaste is the right one for age by checking on the packaging. Encourage your child to begin brushing at this stage, and also to spit out after brushing. You need to still supervise him, until age 3-6 years when children should have the competence to brush on their own. Your child should brush twice daily. Flossing should also be done daily.

Does food affect the development of milk teeth?

A lot of nutrients, for example calcium, phosphates, and vitamins A, C and D play a role in the appropriate development of teeth. Therefore, feed your child well for good dentition. Sticky, sugary foods like candies make for unhealthy teeth, and so should be avoided. Feeding bottles should not be used to put babies to sleep or left in their mouth as they sleep, since that will promote tooth decay.

Your child’s dentist

Between age 6 months and 1 year, your child should see a dentist. The dentist will provide practical, developmentally appropriate information on your child’s oral health. After that, there should be dental visits twice a year. At these visits, your dentist will do professional cleaning, filling of holes in the teeth, fluoride therapy, sealing of fissures and other appropriate procedures.

Summary

Caring for your baby’s teeth make your child beautiful and healthy. It protects the future adult teeth as well as teach your child to be responsible. Good nutrition is also necessary for good dentition.

Written by Dr Gabriel Ketemepi, Dental surgeon. Edited by Babychildandco team.

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