Why are primary teeth or milk teeth so very important?

Primary teeth, also known as “baby teeth” or “deciduous teeth,” begin to develop beneath the gums during the second trimester of pregnancy.  Teeth begin to emerge above the gums approximately six months to one year after birth.  Typically, preschool children have a complete set of 20 baby teeth – including four molars on each arch.

One of the most common misconceptions about primary teeth is that they are irrelevant to the child’s future oral health.  However, their importance is emphasized by the American Dental Association (ADA), which urges parents to schedule a “baby checkup” with a pediatric dentist within six months of the first tooth emerges.

What are the functions of primary teeth?

Primary teeth can be painful to acquire.  To soothe tender gums, biting on chewing rings, wet gauze pads, and clean fingers can be helpful.  Though most three-year-old children have a complete set of primary teeth, eruption happens gradually – usually starting at the front of the mouth.

The major functions of primary teeth are described below:

Speech production and development – Learning to speak clearly is crucial for cognitive, social, and emotional development.  The proper positioning of primary teeth facilitates correct syllable pronunciation and prevents the tongue from straying during speech formation.

Eating and nutrition – Children with malformed or severely decayed primary teeth are more likely to experience dietary deficiencies, malnourishment, and to be underweight.  Proper chewing motions are acquired over time and with extensive practice.  Healthy primary teeth promote good chewing habits and facilitate nutritious eating.

Self-confidence – Even very young children can be quick to point out ugly teeth and crooked smiles.  Taking good care of primary teeth can make social interactions more pleasant, reduce the risk of bad breath, and promote confident smiles and positive social interactions.

Straighter smiles – One of the major functions of primary teeth is to hold an appropriate amount of space for developing adult teeth.  In addition, these spacers facilitate the proper alignment of adult teeth and also promote jaw development.  Left untreated, missing primary teeth cause the remaining teeth to “shift” and fill spaces improperly.  For this reason, pediatric dentists often recommend space-maintaining devices.

Excellent oral health – Badly decayed primary teeth can promote the onset of childhood periodontal disease.  As a result of this condition, oral bacteria invade and erode gums, ligaments, and eventually bone.  If left untreated, primary teeth can drop out completely – causing health and spacing problems for emerging permanent teeth.  To avoid periodontal disease, children should practice an adult-guided oral care routine each day, and infant gums should be rubbed gently with a clean, damp cloth after meals.

It’s important to care for your baby’s teeth from the start. Here’s what to do:

  • Begin cleaning your baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth by wiping the gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth. As soon as teeth appear, decay can occur. A baby’s front four teeth usually push through the gums at about 6 months of age, although some children don’t have their first tooth until 12 or 14 months.
  • For children younger than 3 years, start brushing their teeth as soon as they begin to come into the mouth by using fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. Brush teeth thoroughly twice per day (morning and night) or as directed by a dentist or physician. Supervise children’s brushing to ensure that they use of the appropriate amount of toothpaste.
  • For children 3 to 6 years of age, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Brush teeth thoroughly twice per day (morning and night) or as directed by a dentist or physician. Supervise children’s brushing and remind them not to swallow the toothpaste.
  • Until you’re comfortable that your child can brush on his or her own, continue to brush your child’s teeth twice a day with a child-size toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. When your child has two teeth that touch, you should begin flossing their teeth daily.

Pediatric dentists who specialize in kids dentistry would advice you about various preventive treatment options like Fluoride application, preventive resins and sealants along with regular dental check-ups and proper brushing demonstration and monitoring to prevent the development of dental problems in your kids.

Dr Ganesh M,a specialist pediatric dentist at SMILES FOR ALL DENTAL CLINIC & CHILDREN DENTAL CARE, recommends brushing of your kids teeth as early as the first teeth erupts with standard kids toothpastes .

Dental Health and Fluoride Treatment

Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in many foods and water. Every day, minerals
are added to and lost from a tooth’s enamel layer through two processes, demineralization
and remineralization. Minerals are lost (demineralization) from a tooth ‘s enamel layer
when acids formed from plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth attack the enamel.fluo fluo1
Minerals such as fluoride, calcium, and phosphate are redeposited (remineralization) to
the enamel layer from the foods and waters consumed. Too much demineralization
without enough remineralization to repair the enamel layer leads to tooth decay.

How fluoride acts to save our teeth?

a)Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making the tooth more resistant to acid attacks from
plaque bacteria and sugars in the mouth .

b)It also reverses early decay.

c)In children under 6 years of age, fluoride becomes incorporated into the development of permanent
teeth, making it difficult for acids to demineralize the teeth.

d)Fluoride also helps speed remineralization as well as disrupts acid production in already erupted teeth of both
children and adults.

In What Forms Is Fluoride Available?

As mentioned, fluoride is found in foods and in water. It can also be directly applied to the
teeth through fluoridated toothpastes and mouth rinses. Mouth rinses containing fluoride in lower strengths are available over the counter;stronger concentrations require a doctor’s prescription.

A dentist in his or her office can also apply fluoride to the teeth as a gel, foam, or varnish.
These treatments contain a much higher level of fluoride than the amount found in
toothpastes and mouth rinses. Varnishes are painted on the teeth; foams are put into a
mouth guard, which is applied to the teeth for one to four minutes; gels can be painted on
or applied via a mouth guard.

Fluoride supplements are also available as liquids and tablets and must be prescribed by
your dentist, pediatrician, or family doctor But these are not available in India.

When Is Fluoride Intake Most Critical?

It is certainly important for infants and children between the ages of 6 months and 16
years to be exposed to fluoride. This is the time frame during which the primary and
permanent teeth come in. However, adults benefit from fluoride, too. New research
indicates that topical fluoride from toothpastes, mouth rinses, and fluoride treatments are
as important in fighting tooth decay as in strengthening developing teeth.

In addition, people with certain conditions may be at increased risk of tooth decay and
would therefore benefit from additional fluoride treatment. They include people with:

1.Dry mouth conditions : Also called xerostomia, dry mouth caused by diseases
such as Sjögren’s syndrome, certain medications (such as allergy medications,
antihistamines, antianxiety drugs, and high blood pressure drugs), and head and
neck radiation treatment makes someone more prone to tooth decay. The lack of
saliva makes it harder for food particles to be washed away and acids to be
2.Gum disease : Gum disease, also called periodontitis, can expose more of your
tooth and tooth roots to bacteria increasing the chance of tooth decay. Gingivitis is
an early stage of periodontitis.
3.History of frequent cavities: If you have one cavity every year or every other year,
you might benefit from additional fluoride.
4.Presence of crowns and/or bridges or braces: These treatments can put teeth at
risk for decay at the point where the crown meets the underlying tooth structure or
around the brackets of orthodontic appliances.

As a preventive treatment for dental caries,especially in case of kids is the most important and most researched use of fluoride in dentistry today.Regular application of fluoride in topical form helps prevent caries to a great extent.What-Are-The-Benefits-of-Fluoride-Treatment-