Many parents aren’t aware that their children are born with 20 primary (baby) teeth that are just under the surface of the gums. The teething process – when the teeth begin to appear – can occur as early as three months of age. By age 3, most children have their full set of primary teeth.
Primary teeth serve a number of very important roles in your child’s development. They promote proper nutrition by enabling proper chewing. They assist in speech development. They build self-esteem by allowing your child to display a beautiful, healthy smile.
But most importantly, primary teeth set the stage for the healthy development of adult teeth. Healthy primary teeth provide a path for permanent teeth to follow when they are ready to erupt. That’s why it’s so important to maintain good oral hygiene habits throughout childhood and beyond.
Developing tooth brushing and flossing habits early on can help prevent problems like tooth decay, gum disease and other infections. Primary tooth decay is a serious, infectious, and transmissible disease that can spread quickly and lead to infection or abscess without proper precautions. This can be especially harmful to children because their immune systems aren’t fully developed.
If a tooth becomes infected and needs to be extracted, your dentist will recommend insertion of a space maintainer. If the space is not preserved, other teeth may drift, which causes difficult-to-treat crowding and orthodontic problems when permanent teeth come in.
The most important aspect of taking care of your child’s primary teeth is the example you set. Learning good oral hygiene habits now will help your child grow into a healthy, happy, confident adult.