Deciduous teeth are also known as baby teeth, milk teeth or primary teeth. Here in Orlando, at Dentistry for Children, we know that, as a baby grows, these little deciduous teeth help your child learn to eat and talk, and they are shed in favor of the permanent teeth. We also know there is much more to understand about the value of deciduous teeth.
In former years, many parents shrugged off any care or concern about these teeth, because, after all, they do fall out. Let’s begin our blog about the value of deciduous teeth with a little story, a mini case study about a little boy named Teddy.
A Deciduous Story: Teddy and His Tiny Teeth
Once upon a time in the 1950’s and 1960’s before parents understood the value of baby teeth, and long before toddlers knew their dental home, Teddy grew healthily and normally.
A few of Teddy’s Deciduous teeth grew shiny, white, straight and strong. However, when his teeth began to loosen normally, Teddy became motivated by two unique habits: First, he could not tolerate the slightest sensation of looseness in any of his deciduous teeth.
As soon as a deciduous tooth became even the tiniest bit loose, he worked at it until he pulled or knocked it out. Now his brothers and sister thought he was crazy for doing this. They retained their baby teeth until they hung by tiny threads. But not Teddy. Teddy did not mind the little pain of the tooth pulling experience. But he intensely disliked the wobbly feel of a loose tooth.
A Guilty Tooth Fairy: Deciduous Teeth and Dollars
Once he pulled it, he promptly put it under his pillow for the tooth fairy, who sometimes left a trail of glitter across his bedroom floor. He could hardly sleep for excitement. In those days when Daddy worked in Las Vegas, that fairy left a beautiful, glitter-covered silver dollar for every tooth. One time he earned a great deal of sympathy for accidentally pulling the wrong deciduous tooth and that led to Teddy’s second unique baby tooth habit.
The Fairy left him three silver dollars. That was so much money he shared it with his brothers. From then on, they encouraged him to get those teeth out as quickly as he could. He did, and sometimes he pulled one too soon, just for the money.
Meanwhile, keep in mind that in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the health value of deciduous teeth was not widely perceived.
Deciduous Teeth and Teddy’s Mouth Trauma
Backyard football cost Toddler Teddy a couple more of his teeth. But they were baby teeth and everyone was more concerned about the little scar from his split upper lip.
Teddy’s Mommy noticed he was losing teeth at an alarming rate, but thought nothing of it since they – you guessed it – fall out any way. In Teddy’s family both parents worked, and dental hygiene was easily neglected by the babysitter.
Some of Teddy’s baby teeth began to show decay, but folks thought it didn’t matter, since baby teeth fall out.
When two of his teeth got cavities, mom scolded little Teddy for not brushing, but his parents didn’t think it was serious. The parents were blissfully ignorant of the dire consequences this type of infection could cause.
Then a couple of Teddy’s permanent teeth came in and immediately, serious decay flared up. Finally, infection and pain sent Teddy and his swollen, feverish face to the pediatric dentist. Such a visit was a rare privilege for low middle class, in those days.
By the time he saw the dentist, he had an abscess. And he was very fortunate the infection did not spread into his brain. A root canal, a big filling and a crown convinced him brushing his teeth was pretty important. His permanent teeth were not white, but discolored. They overlapped and grew-in crooked. As Teddy grew older, he paid a terrible price for his early tooth loss. The loss included accidental tooth loss, decay, and bad oral hygiene.
Infections and gum problems followed. His bad start was because of the decay and infections in the baby teeth. Likewise, because he lost many of his deciduous teeth in an untimely manner, the permanent teeth were out of position and crowded, making oral hygiene difficult and time-consuming. Plus, no matter how hard he brushed and regardless of the hygienist’s efforts to polish them, the teeth were permanently discolored.
Infections, cavities, fillings, extractions, root canals and crowns were a constant part of his junior high school years.
By the time he got to high school, the orthodontics were cost-prohibitive, but Teddy thought braces were sissy anyway. Extractions and bridges marked his college years. To make a long story short, Teddy lost his battle with tooth decay and gum disease by the age of 29, when he was forced to resort to dentures.—And it all started with his neglected deciduous teeth.
In Health Notes, an online publication, Dr. Martin Davis, D.D.S. states that now, today, “we have a much different picture of the value of deciduous teeth. If the baby teeth become infected the adult teeth that reside below the gum can become misshapen and discolored.”
This happened to poor, tough little Teddy. Then, in additions to the importance of preventing infection in the deciduous teeth, tooth loss through injury, even baby tooth loss, requires dental treatment.
The position of teeth is critical, so that the permanent teeth follow the correct path to their proper placement in the mouth.
Today’s pediatric dentists would replace four year old Teddy’s three lost teeth with simple “spacers,” to hold their space. The permanent teeth would then be forced into proper position. Even today, quite a few toddlers go to their first dental office visit because of an injury to teeth and mouth. This is not a good way to meet your pediatric dentist.
Poor oral hygiene in very young children does more than cause problems with the baby teeth. The permanent teeth have already been exposed to caries (tooth decay.) A lifetime of dental difficulty can begin under the surface, before the eruption of the tooth. Below you will find The Parent’s Primer for taking care of the deciduous Teeth as well as the beginning lives of the permanent teeth:
The Parents’ Primer for Children’s Deciduous Teeth
- A is for Awful Sugar: Lose the Knack of the Snack! Today’s preschoolers will quickly tell you that frequent snacking causes “sugar bugs” to run rampant. Sugary foods and drinks cause acid to rise and set up perfect conditions for cavities.
Ironically, in the 1950’s and 60’s, sugary apple juice was considered a trendy, healthy snack for babies and children. Today, mothers have learned how bad it is to give the child sweet sticky drinks in their bottles, especially while they settle down for their nap.
- B is for Baby’s Bottle–Gone: Step Away from baby bottles as soon as possible. The baby should no longer need a bottle by age 1. Remember, putting them to bed with the bottle can cause mouth formation problems and early tooth decay.
- C is for Bye, Bye Sippy Cup: This cup is not tooth friendly and should only be used as a stepping stone to the regular cup or glass. It should make a quick disappearance
- D is for Dental Hygiene, Starting Early: Dental Hygiene Rocks the Cradle: Clean your little baby’s mouth and gums and early teeth with a soft clean washcloth to remove plaque. Then graduate to a soft little brush. You are establishing a routine for your child, the beginnings of a life-long habit. Thank you for reading today’s blog from Children’s Dentistry. We hope you return to our next blog for Part 2 of the Parent’s 8 point Primer for Deciduous Teeth and Beyond! You will learn four more critical tips to help care for your children’s teeth.