Why your baby’s milk teeth are vi­tal to his over­all de­vel­op­ment

Jamaica Gleaner - - ORAL HEALTH FEATURE -

BIG BRIGHT eyes and cute lit­tle white teeth are al­ways the first things I no­tice on a baby. Do you ever re­ally no­tice how white they are? It’s al­most like a pic­ture of per­fec­tion. But why is it im­por­tant to take care of your baby’s pearly whites, even though they are go­ing to fall out any­way? Be­cause ... SPACE! That’s right, space.

Though you may think your baby’s teeth are only for chew­ing, they serve a greater pur­pose, and that’s to main­tain the space needed for their adult teeth to emerge. Los­ing or re­mov­ing a baby tooth be­fore it falls out nat­u­rally is un­de­sir­able for your baby and you as the par­ent or guardian. Teeth love to feel the pres­ence of other teeth. With that said, imag­ine re­mov­ing a tooth, and now there is a big space where the ex­tracted tooth was. The tooth be­hind the space is go­ing to move for­ward, closer to the tooth in front of the space. That’s what we call ‘mesial shift’ (yeah, we den­tists have a fancy term for ev­ery­thing). So then the next ques­tion to ask is: What hap­pens to the adult tooth be­low that space? What hap­pens when it’s ready to emerge and there is not enough space for it to come up be­cause the space is now made smaller be­cause of the mesial shift­ing? The sim­ple an­swer is that the tooth will not emerge any at all, or par­tially, or in the wrong po­si­tion com­pletely (this is what we call im­paction), or the teeth can be­come ‘crowded’ or ‘clus­tered’ – sim­ple an­swer but se­ri­ous reper­cus­sions.


Early loss of baby teeth pre­vents the proper emer­gence of adult teeth be­cause of lack of space, but it doesn’t just stop there. Teeth aid in the de­vel­op­ment of the oral and max­illo­fa­cial com­plex, i.e., the de­vel­op­ment of your child’s up­per and lower jaws. The pres­ence of baby teeth also helps in the de­vel­op­ment and for­ma­tion of the fi­nal form that the den­tal arch will have (how the teeth sit in the bone). This, how­ever, is not the only de­ter­min­ing fac­tor, but it plays a vi­tal part.

So, how would you fix these prob­lems that are al­ready in ex­is­tence?

Well, if the tooth is im­pacted, the first line of treat­ment would be or­thodon­tic treat­ment, wherein the or­tho­don­tist would at­tach ap­pli­ances on the teeth to ei­ther

1. open up the space, wide enough for the tooth to emerge,

2. put a chain on the tooth and pull it out­ward, or,

3. a com­bi­na­tion of 1 and 2,which is the most com­mon. The child could also be placed in ‘ex­ter­nal’ ap­pli­ances such as a head­gear (though these are not so com­mon any­more). In se­vere cases, the child may need or­thog­nathic surgery.

This is when the sur­geon dis­places the up­per and/or lower jaws and places them in proper har­mony/po­si­tion­ing.

Does this mean, if I have to re­move one of my child’s teeth, that this will be the out­come?

Def­i­nitely NOT. If one of your child’s tooth is to­tally un­sal­vage­able and it has to be re­moved, there are ap­pli­ances that are called space main­tain­ers that can be placed to hold the space for the adult tooth and keep the arch from dis­fig­ur­ing or col­laps­ing.

How do I pre­vent early tooth loss for my child?

Proper oral hy­giene and good habits. As soon as the baby gets his first tooth, en­sure to wipe or brush that tooth, and sen­si­tise your child to the idea of brush­ing (re­mem­ber to brush the tongue). As soon as more teeth emerge, en­cour­age brush­ing twice a day, af­ter break­fast and at night, es­pe­cially at night be­fore bed. NEVER al­low your baby to sleep with the bot­tle in his or her mouth. En­cour­age good eat­ing habits and limit the in­take of sweets. Re­mem­ber, as the par­ent or guardian, you are the child’s role model Brush­ing to­gether is al­ways an ex­cel­lent idea. Good habits stay for a life­time.

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