By Elisa Dudley, Registered Dental Hygienist
Yep, they fall out eventually. But baby teeth have big effects on the long-term health of adult teeth, jaw development, and speech patterns. So ignoring the hygiene of these minor-league players is a major mistake. Still, I get why parents find it difficult to keep kiddos’ smiles squeaky clean.
As a hygienist, it's so easy for me to tell dads and moms what they should be doing in a step-by-step way, but I recently started trying to brush my six-month old's first tooth and was quickly humbled. He wanted to hold the toothbrush and play with it. Every time I came close to his mouth, he batted it away. Once I managed to actually get the toothbrush in his mouth, he was definitely not having it.
Using the right tools, like a super-soft Cocobrush, definitely make the few seconds I can manage to brush the most cleansing and efficient, but it's still very much a work in progress! When my son has two teeth that touch, I’ll start using the Refillable Cocoflosser for Toddlers to gently scrub between them with Cocofloss. And I’ll definitely try all ofthese tips to make flossing fun for kids.
Why am I so dedicated to establishing an oral-health routine for my kid before he can even say “toothbrush”?
Healthy baby teeth allow your child to chew and swallow properly, so they can munch on crunchy fruits and veggies — especially bite-sized bits of foods that can supercharge their smile. If a kiddo’s teeth are neglected, they may get painful cavities. Tooth decay and sore gums make it difficult for tots to get the proper nutrition they need.
Kids can also be naturally picky eaters. So it can be hard to tell why they suddenly only want to eat mushy foods, especially when they may be too young to clearly tell you that something’s feeling “owie” in their mouth. It takes a healthy set of chompers to eat a rainbow of fresh produce — and biting down on that same vitamin-rich rainbow also helps chompers stay healthy. (This is also one of the reasons why baby food pouches should be used only in moderation.)
So keep your child’s pearly whites in mind if they only want to eat soft, white food. It may be time for a check up.
A chiseled jawline would look silly on a squishy baby, but the health of baby teeth can affect the long-term appearance of your mini me’s jaw muscles and jawline. Every time a tot bites down on a harder food, it puts pressure on the bones of the jaw and skull. This kind of pressure is good — it causes bone cells to release proteins that stimulate the production of more bone, resulting in the healthy development of the jawbone. Looking good, baby Brad Pitt and junior Jennifer Lopez!
Like adults, children can also be sensitive about the appearance of their smiles. Keeping them bright and healthy helps them develop a positive self image from the start.
As a full set of 20 baby teeth grow, they help hold space in the mouth for the incoming set of 32 adult teeth. The premature loss of a baby tooth, such as from a cavity, leaves a gap that may lead to the shifting of other teeth. All this misalignment may cause adult teeth to emerge crooked. Hello, expensive bills for braces!
Help keep baby — and adult — teeth in their assigned spaces by brushing and flossing daily.
The presence and proper positioning of baby teeth actually help form correct pronunciation patterns, as well as help develop the jaw and face muscles that are essential to speaking well. This is particularly important during the early years when your child learns to speak and figures out how to make those hard “th,” “ch,” and “sh” sounds.
If a child is missing some teeth before they should, they may need help from a speech therapist to learn how to say certain words.
Sure that little smile is sweet, but your baby’s pouty mouth is a bacterial petri dish! More than 700 species of bacteria have been found in the human oral cavity. The balance of these microbes throughout one’s life is essential to maintaining not just a sparkling smile, but also the overall health of the body.
Cavities and abscesses in baby teeth establish an unhealthy oral microbiome that can affect the growth and eruption of permanent teeth — and even result in bone loss. (And by the way, parents are often the ones who introduce cavity-causing critters, aka Streptococcus mutans, into their child’s mouth through sharing spoons and smooches!) Once those bigger biters grow in, the “bad” bacteria attack them, leading to cavities before you can say “Tooth Fairy.”
So it’s super important that your child’s baby teeth are kept healthy, or the permanent teeth could be more susceptible to cavities and dental problems forever.
“As a soon-to-be parent of two, I care about doing everything I can to help set my kids up for optimal health and wellness,” says Dr. Chrystle Cu, Cocofloss co-founder and dentist. “Building strong oral-care habits is an important life skill, just like sleep, hydration, and nutrition."
If parents make brushing and flossing an integrated part of their tot’s daily routine, they can help set up healthy smile-care habits that can also boost overall well-being throughout adulthood.
Keep in mind that until your kiddo is seven or eight (give or take a couple years), you’ll need to take their oral-care routine directly into your own hands. It takes that long for most children to develop the dexterity to properly brush and floss on their own. (And that’s why the Refillable Cocoflosser for Toddlers was specifically designed by a dentist for adults to use on their children — not for kiddos to use solo.)
Not sure where to begin with your child’s oral-care regimen? We have some great tips, such as starting off with a soft gauze wrapped around your finger to clean tiny baby teeth, and making flossing fun by letting kids pick their own Cocofloss scents (kids love Pure Strawberry and Confetti Cake). If all else fails, the “Brush Time Boogie” is a good way to make using our Cocobrush and Cocofloss less of a chore and more of a dance party. Try the two-minute podcast “Chompers” too for smart facts and silly stories that make tooth time fun.
While I get that it can be tempting to throw in the towel on baby-teeth care, don’t give up! It’s truly worth the effort. When your offspring finally do take charge of their own oral care, you’ll have given them the very best start for a lifetime of sparkling smiles.
Elisa studied dental hygiene at New York University and has been a dental hygienist for more than seven years. She is the dental marketing manager at Cocofloss.
Got *picky* kids? Our Refillable Cocoflosser for Toddlers is dentist- and mom-designed with love for mini mouths and parents’ hands. Infinitely refillable with scrubby Cocofloss in sweet scents, the Cocoflosser makes flossing fun for everyone!