Many parents will be familiar with the challenges of getting young children to brush their teeth.
There are songs, rhymes and bribes to help ensure basic oral hygiene happens, but all too often, when it’s bedtime or during the morning rush, parents simply don’t have the time or energy to put into the battle.
“It’s just baby teeth, they’ll fall out,” some parents think to themselves, to allay their fears.
But the bad news is, baby teeth matter a lot more than we may realise.
Mamamia spoke to Dr Mihiri Silva, a paediatric dentist (and a mother who understands the struggle), from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, to discover exactly why.
What do you say to parents who think oral care for baby teeth doesn’t matter?
“We know for a number of reasons that oral care for first teeth is really important,” Dr Silva said.
“This is partly because our habits are something we develop from an early age, and so parents need to help their kids understand the value of their teeth.
“I know it’s hard at the start, but it will make a sound routine so much easier to implement later.”
Dr Silva added that caring for baby teeth is important to help prevent decay.
“Dental decay is still a big problem for Australian kids. Over a third have tooth decay by the time they start school,” she said.
“Statistics for hospital admissions show dental issues are one of the most common reasons for preventable acute hospitalisation.
“Hospitalisation is required when decay is so severe that the amount of dental of treatment is too much for a child to bear, so it needs to be performed under a general anaesthetic.
“The other reason for hospitalisation occurs when there’s a serious infection that’s caused by tooth decay, resulting in systemic illness that needs to be treated by IV antibiotics.
What are the risks of losing baby teeth from decay?
“Losing baby teeth, especially multiple, can affect language development at a crucial time when children are learning to form words,” Dr Silva warned.
“There’s also an impact on nutrition. Baby teeth loss can result in difficulty chewing food. In fact, there’s a lot of evidence which shows the impact of decay on the ability of kids to enjoy a varied and healthy diet, that then effects their skin and growth.”
Then there’s also the potential issue of ‘crowding’ to consider.
“Baby teeth fall out at different times, and leave space for the adult teeth that are ready to come through soon after,” Dr Silva explained.
“When that happens naturally, there’s a timing and pattern. But when teeth are lost prematurely from decay, leaving a space with no adult tooth to fill it, the other baby teeth can drift and tilt and fill the gap.