Children’s teeth are called baby teeth, or as dentists refer to them, primary or deciduous. Generally, children have 20 teeth as compared with adults who have 32.The teeth of children are important for several reasons. Like adult teeth, they are very important for proper food chewing, support of the facial muscles, and engaging smiles, but they are also needed to support jaw growth and provide adequate space for eruption of the permanent teeth. The premature loss of certain baby teeth may create crowding problems and malocclusions in the permanent dentition.
When baby teeth first appear in a child’s mouth, preventive dental health measures become necessary to avoid decay. A child’s first visit to the dentist is critical. Not only does the dentist need to evaluate the mouth, but also to expose the child to a friendly, non-traumatic experience. Though many dentists treat children, taking your child to a pediatric dentist initially may be a wise choice. Generally, the offices of pediatric dentists display a playground setting, and they are better equipped to handle the special needs of children.
Tooth decay is the primary cause of premature loss of baby teeth. A visit to the dentist will allow early detection and appropriate care for the dental health of child. If decay is extensive and involves the nerve of the tooth, a procedure known as pulpotomy can be performed. In this procedure, a portion of the inflamed nerve tissue is removed. If successful, this procedure avoids premature loss of the space maintaining baby teeth.
Restoration of these badly damaged teeth may necessitate fabrication and cementation of artificial crowns.
Once decayed teeth are treated properly, good dental health can be restored through appropriate recall appointments to monitor the child’s health and to provide preventive care.
In addition to cleaning of the child’s teeth and encouraging good dental health and hygiene, applying fluoride and sealers (bonded protective coverings over the cavity prone crevices of the teeth) also affords protection from decay.
The dentist should discuss the child’s eating habits and nutrition with the parent, as this is not only an important factor in avoiding decay, but also in maintaining an overall healthy state. It is worthwhile to note that one of the worst causes of decay in children is known as baby bottle syndrome. This syndrome occurs when a parent allows the baby to sleep while sucking the nipple of a milk bottle or any other sugar containing liquid.
In addition to their child’s nutritional habits, parents should also make the pediatric dentist aware of medications that either the mother had been taking during pregnancy or that the child may be taking. One of the most serious dental cosmetic problems is tetracycline stain. This discoloration occurs as a result of taking the antibiotic tetracycline during periods of tooth formation, from the second trimester in utero to about eight years of age.
Finally, it is important not to underestimate the significance of a healthy and happy young dental patient. Proper, non-traumatic preventive care during these early years can have a tremendous positive influence on the dental health of the child. Not fearing dental visits and receiving conservative care (less invasive therapies) will ultimately result in the preservation of good dental health.