Why are primary teeth so important—aren’t they going to fall out anyway?
Primary teeth, sometimes called “baby teeth,” are important to your child’s health and development and should be cared for just as you would for permanent teeth. Primary teeth serve critical functions as a child learns to eat and speak. They are important for the normal growth and development of the face. In addition, they maintain space on the dental arch and guide the eruption of the permanent teeth. While some primary teeth are typically replaced around age six, the back teeth (molars) can remain in until age 12 or 13. Without proper care, these teeth can decay and possibly cause toothaches, gum disease, and serious health problems. For these reasons, primary teeth are significant and require good daily hygiene and regular professional attention, just like permanent teeth.
What about eruption of teeth?
During this age, your child will get his final primary teeth as—the second molars generally erupt around age two years. He will then experience a lag time during which he will neither gain new teeth nor lose any teeth. Children typically begin to lose, or exfoliate, their first primary teeth around six years of age, but some children may begin this as early as four years. If you have any questions regarding your child’s tooth eruption or loss, please consult with his dentist.
How can I prevent cavities and control dental caries?
Between the ages of 2 and 5, children tend to become more independent and we recommend that parents stay diligent at controlling their child’s nutrition, snacking habits, and oral hygiene. This is the age where children often increase their snacking and drinking of sugary liquids. It is no coincidence that we see a lot of tooth decay in children who drink a lot of fruit juice. Therefore, we highly recommend that juices be limited to twice a day consumption or the child be given plain water or flavored waters with no sugar.
Also at this age, children tend to want to do more things by themselves; however, we strongly recommend that a parent continue to help a child brush and floss his teeth until he is seven or eight. A good rule of thumb is that if they can not tie his shoes, he can’t do an adequate job of brushing and flossing.
Is it a problem if my child sucks his thumb or uses a pacifier?
Thumb-sucking and pacifier use in children younger than four is not considered a problem. Children usually stop this habit between the ages of two and four.
Children who suck their thumbs frequently or with great intensity after the age of four or five ARE at risk for dental or speech problems. Such problems include the improper growth of the jaws, misalignment of the teeth and shape of the dental arches. A child may also develop speech problems, including mispronouncing Ts and Ds, lisping, and tongue thrusting. Questions regarding oral habits are common, so please do not hesitate to ask yours!
If you are concerned about your child’s thumb sucking or pacifier habit, talk with the dentist about your child’s dental condition, and what you can do to help your child quit their habit. A good book about thumb sucking is David Decides About Thumbsucking: A Story for Children, A Guide for Parents, by Susan P H.D. Heitler.
What is the goal of early orthodontic evaluation and treatment?
The ages of two to five years often present opportunities to correct many orthopedic (concerns the positioning of the facial bones) discrepancies and to allow for normal function of the jaws. The goal of most intervention at this age is to create an environment that allows for normal eruption of the six year molars. Also, at this time, we can begin to assess crowding and develop strategies for managing the eruption of the permanent teeth.
What should I do in a dental emergency?
This is very active and adventurous time for most children. They are often climbing, jumping , and testing their limits. Please keep a watchful eye on them and help them to understand how to have fun while making good choices to avoid major injuries. We also recommend that you put our emergency number in your cell phone and next to your home phone. When you need it, you do not want to have to look for it! If your child experiences any facial trauma, please call the emergency number and consult with his dentist.