It might seem like you only blinked and already your baby’s teeth are coming through. But even with the most rigorous of dental routines and regular visits to our friend the dentist (recommended every six months), cavities in baby teeth and accidental damage and discolouration in those new adult teeth can cause a lot of unnecessary stress.
Dentists agree that baby teeth are there for a reason. We are born with two sets and all the primary teeth are eventually replaced by permanent ones. Because of this, baby teeth play a valuable role in maintaining the space as the child grows, and must be guarded as much as possible. Dr Heather Totten, a paediatric dentist at Park Avenue Dental Clinic in Motor City, explains fillings in your little ones’ pearly whites are sometimes necessary and assures us that modern dental materials are very safe.
“It is important to keep baby teeth until they fall out naturally,” she tells Time Out Kids. “If loss is unavoidable, a space maintainer made by your dentist can be fitted as a temporary measure. And, of course, baby teeth are also important for normal chewing, speech and aesthetics.”
Besides cavities, however, it has been estimated as many as 30 percent of children under the age of seven suffer an accident that injures one of their front teeth. Dr Shallen Verma, a specialist dentist at City Centre Clinic in Deira, explains what to do if such an incident occurs. “The first step when there is an accident is to control the bleeding by placing a sterile piece of gauze over the socket and asking your child to hold it in place.
“Have a look for the tooth and, if possible, take it to the dentist. If you can’t find it, it might be stuck in your child’s mouth, so let the dentist know and he will take an x-ray and check for other injuries.”
Sometimes, the injured tooth can take on a greyish hue and there is a possibility that it may turn a different colour. In more extreme cases this may determine that the tooth is dead. But differently coloured teeth aren’t always bad news, as any parent who sees their kid’s first “big” teeth will know. Totten reassures us that permanent teeth will always be less white than the baby set. “This is because they are small and the dentine layer is not very thick,” she explains. “When the new ones come through, there is often a marked contrast in colour as they are side by side. The permanent teeth have a much thicker dentine layer and hence appear a little darker. It is usually no cause for concern.”
And what about thumb suckers and little ones who love their dummies? Totten believes that although prolonged sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and alignment of the teeth and can even change the roof of the mouth, most children tend to stop on their own between the ages of two and four. These habits are only harmful if they go on beyond the age when the front permanent teeth start to emerge properly at the age of about seven to eight years.