February is National Children’s Dental Health Month! This month-long observance promotes the benefits of good oral health care for children. Our teeth are important for eating and speaking. They are also important for our self-confidence. People with healthy teeth have a confident smile that helps them in social settings like school, work and meeting new people.
The ability to have healthy teeth begins with our first set of teeth. Babies are born with 20 teeth below the gums. The first tooth begins to appear between 6 months and 1 year. The remaining teeth should appear by the age of 3. First teeth, also known as baby teeth, are important because they serve as spacers for the permanent teeth by maintaining the correct amount of space and alignment. Losing a baby tooth too early can cause permanent teeth to come in crooked or crowded.
The main way to care for our teeth is by brushing and limiting the amount of sugar we consume. For infants and toddlers, tooth decay is often referred to as “baby bottle tooth decay.” The decay often occurs in the upper front teeth. It is most commonly caused by frequent and prolonged exposure to drinks that contain sugar, including formula, milk and juice. Tooth decay is caused when bacteria in the mouth changes the sugar found in food and liquids into acid that attacks the teeth.