The appearance of your baby's first tooth might make you have mixed reactions. You'll probably want to show it off to Grandma and Grandpa, but it might also leave you scratching your head. Suddenly, oral care is added to your daily to-do list. And, since you know that your child will eventually lose their baby teeth, you might have a few questions. Do you really need to make oral care a priority? Do baby teeth have roots if they're just going to fall out? Understanding the structure of baby teeth will allow you to properly care for your child's mouth.
Anatomy of Baby Teeth
Though impermanent, baby teeth are an important part of your baby's oral development. While they're much smaller, baby teeth have the same overall structure as adult teeth. The roots anchor the baby teeth to the jawbone and contain pulp, according to The Nemours Foundation.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) notes that just like in permanent teeth, acid can dissolve the outer layer of the teeth, making them vulnerable to decay when not properly cared for. Although baby teeth aren't any more susceptible to decay than permanent teeth (they are made of the exact same substances), not caring for children's teeth or allowing them to sustain prolonged contact with sugary juices or milk could result in decay and infection.
Do Baby Teeth Have Roots?
The baby teeth roots start to form in utero as part of the tooth anatomy. Teeth, including the roots that secure them to the bone, lay under your baby's gums until the surfaces of the teeth begin to erupt during the first year of life. According to the American Dental Association, you'll likely to see your child's first baby tooth erupt around 6 months of age.
Your child will likely start to lose teeth around age 6 or 7. Even with strong roots, your child's baby teeth will fall out in preparation for permanent, adult teeth. When baby teeth become loose, it's not a sign of poor hygiene or decay, but the mouth getting ready for the new permanent teeth. The time it takes for the tooth to fall out depends on how quickly the permanent teeth dissolve or resorb the roots. As your child's permanent teeth erupt, new roots extend into the bone.
Caring for Baby Teeth
Tooth decay (cavities) can cause pain and sensitivity. Babies and toddlers may be more susceptible to tooth decay when their teeth remain in contact with sugary foods and drinks over a long period of time. For example, allowing babies to fall asleep drinking bottles of milk or juice can lead to baby bottle tooth decay. The AAP notes several ways you can prevent decay from harming your baby's teeth and roots.
- Never put your baby to bed with milk or juice in a bottle.
- Help your baby gently brush their teeth with a soft-bristled brush and a small amount of fluoride toothpaste twice each day.
- Limit sugary snacks and drinks that could feed the plaque bacteria responsible for tooth decay.
- Serve juice only at meals and brush after each serving.
- Schedule an appointment with your dentist before your baby turns 1 year old. Your dentist can examine your baby's teeth to make sure they're developing and being cared for properly.
Your baby's teeth might not be permanent, but they are important to maintain to keep your child healthy. When you see that first tooth poke through, remember that the tooth and its roots are vulnerable to decay if not cleaned regularly. By caring for your child's teeth on a daily basis, you can ensure their teeth are strong and encourage good, lifelong oral hygiene habits.