Children’s teeth fall out don’t they? So why do we need to look after them? Kids get a second set, a second chance to have clean and healthy teeth so why do we need to invest our valuable time looking after baby teeth that will be replaced anyway?
Those baby teeth are precious and a whole host of problems can develop if they are not looked after from birth.
In 2015, Public Health England carried out a survey of children aged 5 and found that a quarter of them had already experienced tooth decay with an average of 3 or 4 teeth being affected and the majority of this was untreated by the time they reached school (source). There were 7,926 episodes of children aged 5 or under having had one or more teeth extracted in hospital due to tooth decay.
So, exactly why is it important to look after those precious baby teeth? Here are a few very good reasons:
1. Lifetime Habits Develop From a Young Age
Many of the behaviours that young children develop and repeat consistently stay with them throughout life. The earlier these habits start the more likely they are to be repeated throughout life and brushing teeth is one of these habits.
As children get older their habits solidify and become much harder to change so getting into the routine of brushing their teeth first in the morning and last thing before bed is essential from as young an age as possible and definitely before the age of 5.
REMEMBER: Children need supervision and or help with brushing their teeth until they are able to tie their own shoelaces
2. Speech Development
Think of the position of your tongue when you make the sounds ‘t’ ‘d’ ‘th’ ‘s’ ‘f” ‘v’…..go on spend a few seconds trying them out and notice how your lips and tongue make contact with your teeth.
Now imagine that you don’t have those teeth….. now imagine that you don’t have those teeth and you are learning to talk. During this critical period of development, any problems with speech may go on to be very difficult to correct and the pronunciation of these letters could be hugely impacted by the loss of the front teeth.
3. Good Nutrition and Digestion
Having healthy teeth means that a highly varied diet can be eaten in order to provide adequate nutrition so the body can function at it’s best.
Poor dental health and loss of teeth can restrict the variety of food that children need for adequate nutrition. loss of teeth or loss of biting surfaces may also result in the digestive system having to work much harder. As a result of this a poor diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies such as anaemia and digestive problems such as chronic diarrhoea and constipation.
4. Overall Health
No one knows the full impact that the disease-causing bacteria in the mouth may have on the general health and wellbeing of anyone with poor dental health.
If there is an abundance of nasty bacteria in the mouth due to gum disease or decay, some of these germs will be swallowed throughout the day as part of saliva and will also enter the blood stream through the gums. There is plenty of research in adults demonstrating that poor oral health has the ability to increase the risk of certain illnesses and make them worse, including diabetes and heart disease.
5. Self Esteem
Smiling is important for social interaction and it is one of the first things that we notice about other people. A reluctance to smile due to the appearance of their teeth, or bad breath, may make a child seem less friendly or less approachable and could have an impact on their ability to interact with their peers and form friendships.
6. Absence of Pain
Toothache is one of the worst pains that anyone will ever experience. I have heard many a time that people would rather go through labour than have toothache. We all want our children to be happy and pain-free and avoiding toothache would be a great place to start.
With toothache comes disturbed sleep (for EVERYONE in the house), a reluctance to eat, days off school (and as a result work) and the need for dental treatment!!
Further info: Health matters: Child Dental Health
7. Proper development and position of adult teeth
If baby teeth need to be removed at a young age due to dental decay or infections the adult teeth are more likely to come through into the mouth in the wrong place and result in an increased need for orthodontics/braces and further removal of teeth to create sufficient space.
Infections in baby teeth occur at the very end of the roots which is where the adult teeth develop. This means that an infection can affect the development of the adult teeth and lead to problems such as dark discolouration, white mottling, rough/pitted surface texture and an increased risk of decay development.
8. Worst Case Scenario –
Okay, so, I admit it, this is a bit of a scare tactic, but it I still worth knowing!! Serious spreading infections, cavernous venous thrombosis, endocarditis (infection of the heart), sepsis and even death although rare, can be caused by dental infection. Bacteria from the mouth can get into the bloodstream when eating and they can then travel anywhere in the body, including the brain and the heart where they can cause life threatening conditions. If the bacteria continue to increase in number in the bloodstream then sepsis can develop.
Just to prove I’m not making it up, here are some links to further information on these issues:
SO, hopefully I’ve managed to convince you that those baby teeth are VERY important and they need looking after just as much as adult teeth do. Please read more on the best way to look after little ones teeth here: