Is it okay to ignore your child’s primary teeth (or milk teeth) because they are going to get replaced with permanent teeth anyway? Or, is it okay for kids to not brush regularly or binge on sugary treats without bothering to clean their teeth later? Since milk teeth fall off, most parents believe that it is okay if kids are not very diligent about their daily brushing regimen. On the contrary, it is very important for children to be disciplined when it comes to brushing their teeth. Here’s why:
- Most importantly, the health of the primary teeth (or milk teeth as it is commonly known) affects the health of the teeth which succeed it in the mouth. Each primary tooth has a permanent tooth lying below it in the jaw (though it is not fully formed initially). Deep cavities in the primary teeth, with associated infection, pose a risk of the infection spreading to the underlying teeth and surrounding region.
- Each primary tooth has a physiological time for falling off. Teeth removed ahead of the normal time, can affect the alignment of the permanent teeth. As each tooth falls off, the succeeding tooth lying below it, erupts into its place. But if the succeeding tooth is not ready for eruption yet, there are chances of the primary teeth located in front of it and behind, moving into its place and closing up the space available for future eruption of the permanent tooth.
- Habits acquired at a young age will stick with one throughout life. A child who has learned to take care of his/her teeth twice a day, will strive to maintain his/her oral hygiene even through adulthood.
Initially, of course as a parent you will have to brush their teeth for them, until they can learn the skill themselves. It is important to use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste at this stage. Do not allow them to swallow it, as it can affect the permanent teeth.
Later on as they begin to brush on their own, you still need to keep an eye out for any areas that get overlooked. You can even time them, just to make sure they do a good job.
It will be some time before children can acquire the skill required for the technique recommended to adults for brushing. The recommended technique for children is biting the teeth together, and brushing in large circles, covering both the upper teeth and the lower teeth. This is followed by opening the mouth, and brushing the inside of the teeth in smaller circles, both the upper and the lower. The chewing surfaces (on top of the lower teeth and below for the upper teeth), are cleaned using short movements, to the front and the back. All the teeth need to be cleaned properly.
At the first sight of a cavity in any of the primary teeth, the child must visit the dentist. Not only will this encourage a healthy relationship between the child and the dentist, the child will also realize the importance of brushing their teeth. Another advantage would be that at the initial stages the cavity can be filled without any extensive work or pain. This helps the child get over their fear of the dentist.
Space maintainers are appliances used to preserve space for the permanent teeth, when the primary tooth has been removed prematurely. All 20 of the primary teeth will be replaced by permanent teeth- 5 in each quadrant of the mouth. Apart from these, there are another 12 permanent molar teeth that erupt into the mouth, bringing the number of the permanent teeth to 32.
You are responsible for your child’s health and it is important for you to understand the significance of healthy primary teeth (as much as you understand the importance of good nutrition and hygiene).
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