We sometimes forget that  children — even those who don’t yet have permanent teeth — need to see the dentist just as often as adults. Poor oral health can have an impact on children’s education. According to the American Dental Association, “dental disease causes children to miss more than 51 million school hours each year.”

Even if a child isn’t absent from school from dental issues, kids experiencing tooth pain can become agitated in class and may find it difficult to concentrate. 

Getting children on the path to good oral health in their early years will determine how they view oral health throughout their lives. Since it’s never too soon to start, let’s look at proper care of primary or baby teeth. 

Primary Teeth

Primary teeth develop in a predictable order and at predictable ages. From the upper, central incisor, which usually erupts from 8-12 months and is shed at around 6-7 years, to the upper, second molar which erupts at about 25-33 months and is shed at 10-12 years, many parents don’t take the 20 primary teeth too seriously. The feeling is often that, since they’re temporary and will only be around for a few years, they couldn’t be too important. 

According to the American Dental Society’s Mouth Healthy website, here are a few important functions that primary teeth play:

  • They hold a place for permanent teeth. If a primary tooth is lost too early, the remaining teeth can drift and block permanent teeth, causing permanent teeth to be crooked or crowded. 
  • Permanent teeth develop very close to the root of primary teeth. Untreated cavities in primary teeth can develop into an infection or abscess which can cause damage to the permanent teeth underneath. 
  • Primary teeth affect speech and facial development. In learning to speak, the tongue, lips and cheeks all interact with the teeth in forming essential sounds and words. The teeth also provide structure to facial muscles which will determine the shape of a child’s face. 
  • Proper health and nutrition depend on good teeth. Dental pain can lead to nutritional deficiencies if a child is unable to chew and eat food. Additionally, untreated cavities can become infected, and that infection can spread to other parts of the body. 
  • Healthy primary teeth contribute to healthy self-esteem. Dental pain can have an effect on concentration and schoolwork. Plus, decayed teeth can negatively impact a child’s early social development. 

Children may not have an abundance of teeth by their first birthday, but it’s the suggested time that they are introduced to the dentist for their first checkup. Besides checking for cavities, which are very common in front incisors, the dentist can answer questions on how to properly clean a toddler’s teeth and can be instructive in handling problems like thumb sucking. 

Regular care of a child’s primary teeth isn’t very different than caring for your own teeth. Start brushing as soon as teeth appear. Use an appropriate size brush and a fluoride toothpaste, in an amount about the size of a grain of rice for children under three, and the size of a pea for children over three. 

Primary teeth should be brushed twice a day. Once teeth become so plentiful that they are close together and touching, it’s time to introduce flossing to the brushing routine. 

Once children are old enough to brush their own teeth—usually around age 6—parents should still supervise, offering advice and reminding children not to swallow toothpaste. 

Permanent Teeth

Like primary teeth, permanent teeth appear on a fairly predictable schedule. As they push primary teeth out, permanent teeth make their first appearance around the age of 7 or 8 years and continue until the age of 17 to 21 years when the third molars, or wisdom teeth, finally arrive, although it’s not uncommon for wisdom teeth to never appear. 

The most important thing to do as permanent teeth appear is to see a dentist at least twice a year. There can be a variety of problems that occur as permanent teeth erupt, especially if there have been previous issues with primary teeth. 

Permanent teeth can come in crooked, they can overlap or appear with one tooth directly in front of another and can even grow laterally, all of which can result in bite issues. With any of these problems, early treatment can prevent future oral health troubles. 

It’s important to review good oral health habits with children and can even be fun through activities which will keep them involved like crossword puzzles, coloring sheets, mazes, and a brushing calendar

Most importantly, good oral health throughout a child’s life starts by regularly visiting the office of Dr. Brei. Dr. Brei and his professional  staff can address small issues before they become big ones, putting kids on the path to a healthy and happy future. 

There are many ways to contact the office of Dr. Brei. You can email them at appointments@drbrei.com, call them at 520-325-9000, or click here to book an appointment directly. For you and your children to have a pleasant dental experience, get in touch with the office of Dr. Brei today!

During this challenging time, everyone at Dr. Brei’s office has made the safety of their patients their number one priority. Watch this video showing all the steps Dr. Brei has taken to protect patients and ensure every patient’s comfort, safety and wellness.