With the television advertisements urging us to brush our teeth twice daily and dentists showing us the consequences of not doing so, the urban population is well-aware of the importance of oral hygiene. But what about our children? 

It has been observed that in spite of teaching good brushing habits, many children are turning up with cavities and other dental problems. Could this be attributed to a lack of awareness in parents regarding the importance of milk teeth, apart from other factors?

What is the importance of milk teeth?

There is a common myth among parents that milk teeth are not important as they will fall off soon, to be replaced by permanent teeth. In reality, that concept is far from the truth. The first tooth erupts in the oral cavity in infants around the age of 6-8 months and all milk teeth keep erupting, till the age of 2 years approximately. The first milk teeth that start falling off are the lower front incisors at the age of 6-7 years, then the upper incisors, and so on. Contrary to common beliefs, the primary molars fall off too, but much later around 8-10 years of age.

Milk teeth have an essential function to fulfill up till the age of 10 years. Apart from helping in chewing and speech, they guide the permanent teeth into their proper position which takes up the space occupied by the milk teeth. So a premature loss of milk teeth, before their natural time of exfoliation, could lead to irregularly arranged permanent teeth. 

It is advisable to visit a dentist regularly, but not many are aware that specialized dental surgeons are available to cater to the dental care of children, known as pediatric dentists. 

Who are pediatric dentists?

They are dental surgeons specializing in the dental treatment and prevention of dental problems of infants and children through adolescence, till the age of 13 years. We need a specialized dentist for children essentially because of the difference in the nature of the treatment they require from adults. Pediatric dentists are also trained to treat children with special health care needs like Downs syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, or other developmental or physiological disorders.

Not only are the treatment protocols for milk teeth or young permanent teeth of children different, but the manner of dealing with an anxious or fearful child also requires specialized training and knowledge of child psychology. Pediatric dentistry or child dentistry also mainly aims towards the prevention of any dental problems and building a positive attitude and habit towards oral hygiene maintenance in children. 

A child’s oral health is as important as general health for normal physiological development. With proper care, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits, children can have a lifetime of healthy smiles.