This Quarter’s Theme: The Importance of Baby Teeth
Tooth Talk Expert Answers Question of the Month About the Importance of Baby Teeth
Question: Often, parents don’t seem to realize that baby teeth are important. What can I tell them?
According to Dr. Jessica Lee, DDS, MPH, PhD, Demeritt Distinguished Professor and Graduate Program Director, Department of Pediatric Dentistry at University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, this is a very common question. And, yes, baby teeth matter!
“Baby teeth are important as kids grow and hit those vital developmental milestones at ages 1, 2 and 3. To meet those milestones, children must have good nutrition and be able to eat, which begins with healthy teeth. Without good dental health, overall good health is compromised. Teeth are not superficial but are directly tied to the body’s health. Kids need healthy baby teeth for adequate growth and development. Hurting baby teeth affect school readiness and quality of life. Studies show that children with large cavities and pain in their baby teeth fail to thrive. When teeth hurt, kids can’t eat, they can’t learn and concentrate at school and at play. Poor dental health is one of the top reasons for kids missing and performing poorly in school. The American Journal of Public Health reported that kids in dental pain got more Cs and Ds in school than As and Bs. And, because babies and toddlers may not be able to say what’s bothering them, it’s hard for a parent to know that it’s a hurting tooth.
“Baby teeth are integral to child development; babies explore with their mouths, but, when they have pain, they can’t do that. Remind parents to take care of those baby teeth by brushing them with a small child’s toothbrush with a smear of fluoride toothpaste. Most parents start brushing their child’s teeth when there are a lot of them, around age 2 or 3. I recommend brushing sooner, when kids are babies. It’s easier to start the habit then because babies want to put the brush in their mouths. And, just as pediatric visits are important, it’s smart to get children to the dentist and start charting those key developmental milestones as well.”
Have a question? Our special section Ask the Expert: Question of the Month features a panel of experts ready to answer your questions about children’s dental health. Each month, Tooth Talk will choose a question and our expert will answer it here on the site and in the weekly email.
Submit your question anonymously to Ask The Expert: Question of the Month by clicking here.