Importance of Baby Teeth

Baby teeth that begin to appear around six months and can remain until a child is 13 or 14. Baby teeth help children eat well, speak clearly and allow adult teeth to grow in properly.

Even though they will eventually be replaced by the permanent adult teeth, baby teeth are very important and should be well looked after, checked or fixed if there is a problem. Here are some simple tips to care for your baby's teeth (PDF).

Early childhood decay

Early childhood caries (ECC) is a common and severe form of cavities found in very young children (0-4 years of age). Without treatment, decay can spread deeper into the tooth, causing pain and infection and even damage to the underlying adult tooth. The baby tooth or teeth may need to be removed. Unfortunately, because of their young age, children may require treatment under sedation or general anesthesia at a hospital.

If a baby tooth is missing too early other teeth may move into its space and block the way for the permanent tooth.

 
  Baby Teeth X-ray
 

Baby teeth hold space for adult teeth as shown in the dental X-ray above.

Contributing factors to early childhood decay:
  • Diets high in sugar
  • A high frequency of snacking and/or frequent meals as well as sticky and sugary snacks.
  • Sustained use of the baby bottle or sippy cup (especially at bed time)
  • Lack of tooth brushing and flossing
  • Limited access to fluoridated water
To prevent cavities:
  • Keep your child's teeth clean. This is the easiest way to keep teeth healthy.
  • Limit sugar filled foods and drinks (particularly for babies). Milk, juice and formula all contain sugar. Avoid using the bottle and sippy cup to sooth your child. Fill them with water instead.
  • Visit the dentist by age one or within six months of when you see the first tooth. Through regular examinations your dentist will monitor the development of your child’s teeth and gums to catch problems early and prevent disease.

Baby teeth development

All 20 baby teeth usually appear by the age three. The chart outlines when you might see your child’s teeth come in. Keep in mind, all children are different.

Teething

Teething is the process where teeth appear (erupt) and it can cause pain, fussiness and drooling. To help ease the pain, many babies like to chew on a cold clean face cloth or teething ring. You can also rub your child’s gums gently with a clean finger. Do not give your child teething cookies as most contain starch and sugar which contributes to tooth decay.

         Primary Teeth Development

Also review a series of frequently asked questions about babies and toddlers dental health at kidsmiles.ca.