While most parents are excellent teachers of personal hygiene, many forget the importance of preventive dental techniques with their young children. “I meet so many parents who believe baby teeth aren’t important because they’re going to fall out anyway,” says Dr. Stuart Katz. After 20 years running his own dental practice, he’s seen many young children lose their baby teeth prematurely due to lackadaisical maintenance.
“Those temporary baby teeth are very important because they hold space for permanent teeth. Baby teeth hold space for the second set of teeth to glide into position so as not to shift forward or crowd the mouth,” says Dr. Katz.
When it’s difficult just to get energetic toddlers to sit for a toothbrushing, it’s even more difficult to detect cavities on baby teeth. That’s why it’s pertinent that parents bring their children for regular check-ups. When mouths are kept clean, bacteria on one tooth may not spread. “If a parent isn’t diligent, the bacteria from a small cavity can spread throughout the mouth.”
What’s more, if a cavity in a baby tooth isn’t treated in time, the bacteria can actually spread to the permanent tooth. “Between around the ages of six and twelve, the permanent teeth share an arch with the baby teeth. If the child and parents allow a cavity to go unnoticed, the decay can spread to the permanent tooth.” By maintaining regular check-ups and teaching good dental habits, parents ensure their children’s oral health well into adulthood.
Partly due to the fact that they are more difficult to clean, children’s mouths and teeth and more sensitive than adults. So, Dr. Katz and his team also advise on preventative tooth care at home. “Provide kids with fruit roll-ups instead of candy and fruit juice instead of soda,” he says. “Sugary foods and drinks are some of the worst culprits for tooth decay.”