First-time parents often watch in amazement as their children reach certain milestones: that first toothless grin, those babbled first words, and those wobbly first steps. What many parents don’t know, however, is that there are also certain dental milestones that they should expect along the way. That’s right: the development of your child’s teeth follow a specific pattern. It’s important for parents to be mindful of these developmental patterns because the stage for a lifetime of good oral health is set early on in childhood.
The beginning: baby teeth eruption
It’s perhaps one of the most anticipated milestones of infancy: when that first pearly white tooth erupts from your baby’s gums. Parents often celebrate this milestone with an abundance of pictures and phone calls to family and friends, but there’s one phone call that’s typically forgotten: a call to the dentist to schedule baby’s first check-up. That’s right: the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children visit the dentist within six months of the first tooth’s eruption. After all, that first tooth paves the way for all of the teeth to come in the future. Yet, many parents make the mistake of delaying that first dental visit, reasoning that baby teeth just aren’t as important as permanent teeth. That’s simply not the case. Primary teeth are essential for a variety of reasons, including:
- Space fillers. Baby teeth act as space holders for the eventual permanent teeth. In fact, if a baby tooth is lost too soon, permanent teeth can drift into the empty space, causing misalignment and overcrowding.
- Communication. If you think your child’s pearly whites are just for show, you better think again. Baby teeth aid in the proper development of children’s speech.
- Nourishment. When baby teeth aren’t properly cared for and are lost too early, children are at risk of malnutrition. That’s because the primary teeth help children to chew a variety of foods properly.
Childhood oral health
Prior to the teenage years, children go through a dental phase where several of their permanent teeth have come in, but they also still have plenty of primary teeth. During this period, some unique concerns can present themselves. Among the most common concerns are overcrowding and injury. As the adult teeth come in, overcrowding might result in a referral to an orthodontist. Injury to the teeth, on the other hand, comes into play as children begin to participate more actively in extracurricular activities like sports. It’s imperative, then, for parents to emphasize the need for protective gear like mouth guards when children are involved in high contact sports.
The teenage years
Unlike their younger counterparts, teenagers are old enough to understand the link between oral health and overall health. Thus, parents should stress the importance of good oral hygiene to their teens. This includes emphasizing the role a well-balanced diet plays in oral health, as teenagers are notorious for neglecting nutritious foods in favor of convenience foods.
The third molars– more commonly referred to as the “wisdom teeth”– should be monitored during the teenage years as well. Because most people’s mouths don’t have enough space for these molars, they typically are removed. Failing to remove wisdom teeth can result in complications like infection and crowding or damage to the adjacent teeth.
While each stage of childhood presents its own unique concerns when it comes to oral health, there is one thing that remains the same: the importance of visiting the dentist for regularly scheduled cleanings and check-ups. Because oral health is closely linked to the body’s overall health, it’s critical for parents to establish good dental health habits in childhood. Contact Countryside Dental Group today to learn more.