The appearance of the milk teeth is one of the most awaited landmarks in a child's life. The first teeth to erupt are usually the lower front teeth during 6 to 8 months of life, and the last milk tooth to fall off is at 10 to 12 years of age. The playful nature of teeth, difficulty to make them maintain good oral hygiene, and the food habits put the children at increased risk of dental disease.
Very often, because they are in place for a shorter duration, parents tend to ignore decay in the milk teeth. But whether it is decay or gum disease or broken teeth, it is important to immediately treat them.
Listed below are some functions that milk teeth play-
- Eating - They may be exerting slightly lesser force than the bigger permanent teeth, but they still play a significant role in chewing and digestion. Children with weak, missing, or decayed molars have poor nutrition and food habits due to their inability to chew food well.
- Esthetics - A child with a good set of teeth and an open smile is loved by all. This adds not just to the beauty of the child but also to his self-worth and self-esteem. These children feel more confident and are more social.
- Speech development - A good set of teeth are essential for a child's speech development. Improper spacing between teeth or lost tooth not replaced can lead to speech issues.
- Space Maintenance - In addition to the above functions, the milk teeth also help to preserve and "maintain" the space that is required for the permanent teeth. As the permanent tooth nears eruption, the milk tooth, gets resorbed, becomes mobile, and finally falls off. The primary tooth also allows the permanent tooth to erupt in proper position by leaving a channel behind while shedding, thereby preventing future mal-positioning of teeth. In cases where the primary tooth was lost and not replaced, space may be reduced due to the movement of the adjacent and opposing tooth into this space.
Given the above reasons, it is very important to take good care of the primary or milk or deciduous teeth. Some simple things to do would be:
- In the very early stages, before regular dental care can begin, the teeth can be wiped off with a gauze wrapped on the finger.
- By the first year of life, brushing should be introduced along with rinsing after each meal.
- A biannual visit to the dentist for oral prophylaxis with regular cleaning should be started by the first year of life.
- If the dentist identifies the child to be prone to decay, fluoride application and/or pit and fissure sealants should be used.
- There are many kinds of toothpaste specially designed for children of age up to 6 years and from 6 to 12 years. Some of these are designed in such ways that ingestion of the paste doesn't harm kids while some paste provides strength to their milk teeth.
These are sufficient reasons to take care of the primary teeth, which play a very important role.
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