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Ask the Expert: The Importance of Caring for Baby Teeth

Primary teeth are important to a child’s development and caring for them properly will help your little one develop lifelong healthy habits.



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The Importance of Primary Teeth

It’s common for parents to question the importance of children’s baby teeth. Why? Since these teeth will fall out anyway, the idea is that they don’t require the same care and attention as permanent teeth. Not so, says Dr. Wilma McPherson of Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry, who educates parents and children on the importance of primary teeth. In addition to holding space in the jaw for growing permanent teeth, primary teeth play their own role in the healthy development of children’s speech, maintaining proper nutrition and children’s sense of self-esteem.

Dr. McPherson recommends parents schedule their child’s first dental appointment after his first tooth erupts and before his first birthday. These early appointments, in addition to helping to familiarize the child with the dentist’s office, are a good opportunity for parents and the dentist to develop a plan for caring for children’s teeth through the different stages of growth and diet in the first few years of life. Any concerns parents have about teething pain, thumb sucking or excessive pacifier use can also be discussed during these early appointments.

photo provided by Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry

Caring for Baby Teeth

General best practice is for parents to clean baby’s gums with a soft wet cloth after feeding to prevent possible decay. There is a false idea that babies can’t have tooth decay. Sadly, babies are susceptible to tooth decay and infection. Cleaning after every feeding and giving babies water to drink will help clear away remnants from teeth and gums. Once teeth appear, parents should brush twice daily with a soft, age-appropriate toothbrush. Parents should continue to clean children’s teeth up until age 5 to assure proper cleanings. Allowing young children to brush on their own is a great way to teach good habits, but these efforts should be a supervised addition to the proper cleaning done by parents.

For children between 5 and 10, supervision is still key, but they should have now developed the dexterity to properly clean their own teeth. Monitor brushing times and flossing technique to make sure teeth are fully cleaned. Remember to have children brush twice daily for two minutes. To help children get comfortable with this time, many parents will play a special song or use a bathroom clock to monitor how much time is spent in each quadrant of the mouth. These lessons form the basis for the good dental practices your child will use to clean her teeth through adolescence and into adulthood.

photo provided by Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry

Healthy Diet, Healthy Teeth

When choosing baby’s first foods, avoid overly-processed, commercial products with too much sugar. Implementing these good habits early can lead to healthy lifestyle choices throughout your child’s life. Avoiding excess sugars early reduces a child’s expectation for sweets. During the bottle phase, stay away from sweetened liquids such as fruit juice to calm or soothe children or put them to sleep. Even liquids such as breast milk and formula contain sugars that can feed the bacteria leading to tooth decay.

Outside of feedings, use bottles with water or pacifiers to soothe children. Don’t coat pacifiers in any sweets, especially honey since it can be toxic to babies younger than 12 months. For older children, monitor the intake of candy and sweets and avoid sweetened beverages such as soda and fruit juice and sticky foods that tend to linger on teeth. It is also important for parents and guardians to monitor between meal snacking since it promotes prolonged contact of sugars and acids on teeth, which can wear away enamel and cause tooth decay.

Monitor Growth and Development

Set up regular appointments for your child so you and your doctor have a working knowledge of how her teeth are developing. As teeth grow, Dr. McPherson will monitor primary teeth as they grow, fall out and are replaced to make sure adult teeth are coming in properly. Corrective treatments or orthodontic interventions can be planned in advance when parents work together with their pediatric dentist. As children get older, playing sports and even regular child’s play can lead to injury. For children involved in sports, having a mouth guard can help protect them from injury and tooth loss. In the case of a tooth lost early, we recommend a space maintainer to help keep teeth from shifting until the permanent tooth is ready to erupt.

photo provided by Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry

Develop a Positive Experience with Your Pediatric Dentist

Caring for primary teeth also means making sure children have a strong understanding of good dental habits and associate the dentist’s office with health and safety. Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry is committed to helping children develop a positive relationship with the dentist that will lead to a lifetime of healthy habits and bright smiles. When our young patients associate Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry as a place where their good practices are recognized in the Cavity-Free Club or with our fun smile boat sticker, the lessons taught at home are reinforced and rewarded. The JCPD in-office games and events along with our community projects such as the recent Candy Buy Back Program or the upcoming Holiday Toy Drive are all designed to help reinforce our office as a place of positive experiences.

Too often, pediatric dentists will first see a patient when he is five or six and already has cavities, possibly pain, and the natural fear of the unknown. Relationships begun with the loud noises and unfamiliar sensations of corrective treatments can be hard to repair. In the event we have a new patient who does require a treatment, Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry’s trained staff and relaxing atmosphere are all focused on soothing nervous emotions and calming fears.

Dr. McPherson doesn’t believe there is any reason for a child to fear the dentist’s office and everything we do is a testament to that philosophy. Work with our team to give your child healthy habits and a positive dental experience. Call Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry at 201-434-3002 or visit us at JCPDentistry.com to schedule an appointment or to learn more about our practice.

Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry is Where Little Smiles Come to Shine!

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