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Helpful Pediatric Dentistry Tips!

How the Decay of Baby Teeth Affects Adult Teeth

by Dr. Steven Whittemore | Published April 25, 2022

Why do we grow baby teeth?

Our teeth have more than one job. One may think that we have teeth purely to chew our food, but there is so much more! Baby teeth help us with speech development, smiling, and act as a placeholder for our adult teeth as our jaws grow and take shape. 

Teeth don’t grow like hair or nails, so once they are fully formed there is no changing them. A full set of 32 adult teeth are just too big for a child’s jaw. That’s why we need two sets of teeth to accommodate the change in our jaw sizes over time without hampering our ability to use them.

Both sets of teeth are incredibly important and that’s why you need to establish good dental habits from early on.

How do I tell if my child is experiencing tooth decay?

Sometimes you’re unable to see very apparent signs of tooth decay until it’s too late, so it’s important to schedule regular check ups for your infant. Here are some visible signs of tooth decay that warrant a speedy visit to the dentist:

  • White spots begin to form on the teeth along the gum line 
  • Brown or black discoloration of the teeth
  • Pain in the area around the tooth
  • Sensitivity to certain foods, such as sweets and hot or cold drinks

In general if you’re noticing any abnormalities in your child’s teeth it’s best to get them checked by a professional to handle any preventable further damage.

How does the decay of baby teeth affect adult teeth?

The bacterial content of a mouth full of cavities and decay is very high. When the new permanent teeth start to come in by the age of 6, the existing bacteria invades them, leading to cavities in the young permanent teeth coming in.

If untreated, decay from baby teeth can progress deeper into and through the root canals into the underlying bone. This may cause an acidic environment around the developing permanent tooth; the body’s response varies depending on the age of the child and status of development of the erupting permanent tooth.

There is the possibility of abscess formations on the gums, decay progression, discoloration, malformations and permanent staining of the adult tooth.

How do I help prevent tooth decay with my child?

Tooth decay is preventable, as most decay is a result of poor dental hygiene and diet. Here are a few steps you can take to help prevent tooth decay in your child:

Create Healthy Routines

As soon as your child’s first tooth appears, it’s important to start a brushing routine. Brush your child’s tooth/teeth, tongue, and gums twice a day with a soft bristle toothbrush. 

If your child is old enough to brush their teeth themselves, take the time to ensure they are doing it properly. After the age of two is a good time to start incorporating flossing into your child’s teeth routine.

Use Products with Fluoride

Fluoride is used to prevent tooth decay. It helps to strengthen teeth, resist acid, and block the cavity-forming action of bacteria. Thankfully, most homes in Iowa have regular exposure to fluoride in their tap water. Fluoride supplements are usually prescribed for children and adults whose homes have water that has little to no fluoride, but for most, consciously using toothpaste and mouthwash that contains fluoride is enough.

Maintain a Well-Balanced Diet

Make sure your child eats a well-balanced diet. Limit snacks that are sticky and high in sugars, such as chips, candy, cookies, and cake. 

​​When you consume sugar, it immediately begins interacting with the plaque bacteria to produce acid. The acid then dissolves your enamel slowly, creating the decay in your teeth. Limiting the amount of sugar and acid in your diet is a best practice for not only your teeth but overall health.

Avoid Sugary Drinks Before Bed

If your child uses a bottle at bedtime, only put water in it. Juice or formula contain sugars that can lead to tooth decay. Ever heard of bottle rot?  Letting those sugars sit on your child’s gums is best to avoid if possible.

Schedule a Visit with Us

Scheduling routine dental cleanings and exams for your child is the best way to stay on top of their dental health. Already see signs of decay? Schedule an appointment with our team and let’s get your child back to their best self.

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