If you're aiming for adorable camera shots, nothing beats baby photos. Even the tough guys among us can't resist oohing and ahhing over pics of their friends' and families' newest editions. Even celebrities like Brie Bella, WWE wrestler and now activewear entrepreneur, get into the act. She recently posted photos of her six-month old son, Buddy, for Instagramers. The focus—Baby Buddy's new baby teeth.
For many, a baby's first teeth are almost as cute as the baby themselves. Like the tiny humans sporting them, baby (or primary) teeth look like miniature versions of adult teeth. But aside from their inherent cuteness, primary teeth are also critically important for a child's dental function and development.
For most kids, primary teeth come right on time as they begin their transition from mother's milk or formula to solid food that requires chewing. Aside from their importance in nutrition, primary teeth also play a prominent role in a child's speech development and burgeoning social interaction.
They're also fundamental to bite development, with an influence that extends beyond their lifespan. They serve as placeholders for the permanent teeth, "trailblazers" of a sort that guide future teeth toward proper eruption.
So critical is this latter role that losing a baby tooth prematurely can open the door to bite problems. When a baby tooth is lost before its time, the space they're holding for an incoming tooth could be overtaken by neighboring teeth. This in turn could force the intended tooth to erupt out of place, leading to cascading misalignments that could require future orthodontics to correct.
Although facial trauma can cause premature tooth loss, the most common reason is tooth decay. One form of this disease known as early childhood caries (ECC) is especially problematic—it can rapidly develop and spread to other teeth.
Fortunately, there are ways to avoid early primary tooth loss. Here are a few things you can do to prevent that from happening.
- Clean your baby's teeth daily by brushing and later flossing to remove bacterial plaque, the major cause of tooth decay;
- Limit your baby's sugar consumption. In particular, avoid bedtime bottles filled with milk, juice or formula;
- "Child-proof" your child's play areas to lessen their chances of falling on hard surfaces that could injure teeth;
- Begin regular dental visits around their first birthday for early diagnosis, treatment and the application of other disease prevention measures.
Like Brie Bella, it's a joy for many parents to show off their baby's first teeth. Just be sure to take these common sense steps to protect those primary teeth from an unwelcome early departure.