Baby teeth and why they’re so important by The Mummy Dentist
13th March 2020
When your baby gets their first tooth around six months it’s a lovely milestone in their development. This is the same time as weaning starts and when it becomes necessary, for many reasons, to look after these all important ‘milk’ teeth when eating and drinking.
There are 20 teeth in your little ones’ set of ‘primary’ or ‘milk’ teeth and a complete set comprises; 8 incisors, 4 canines + 8 molars. Each tooth has a different role from biting and cutting food, to grinding or chewing. Worryingly, an oral health survey by Public Health England* of 3-year olds in England found that a scary 12% of this young age group had already experienced dental decay! This can be caused for many reasons from not cleaning teeth thoroughly enough, to drinking sugary drinks, and even not using an open cup to drink from where bottles and ‘sippy’ cups cause liquids to pool around the teeth and increase the risk of decay.
Let’s explore the roles of baby teeth in eating and drinking in more detail and how to look after them…
Firstly, it is good to understand the different food-related functions of baby teeth:
- Incisors – the front teeth. These teeth have a sharp flat edge for biting and cutting into food.
- Canines – the ‘corner’ teeth sometimes referred to as a ‘fang’. They have a sharp, pointed biting surface to grip and tear food.
- Molars – The wide back teeth have a large flat biting surface. The function of the molars is to chew, crush and grind food.
Keeping your little one’s teeth healthy means they will be able to enjoy a whole variety of foods with different textures and flavours.
Learning to drink is another important skill a baby has to master when weaning. Prolonged use of a dummy or bottle can affect the position of a child’s teeth and for this reason it is strongly recommended to introduce an open cup like Babycup First Cups to sip from at six months.
Learning a ‘sipping’ action is good for promoting oral-facial muscle and jaw development as babies practice new skills including ‘babbling’ and early speech patterns at a young age. It also prevents liquids from pooling around the upper front teeth helping to reduce the risk of decay.
An open cup rim is preferred to a spouted or sealed cup. The spout of the cup may impede a child’s natural tongue movements, or a seal may cause a suck instead of a sip which is preferred.
Babycup First Cups are mini open cups specifically designed for babies and young children. Baby-safe, and with baby-sized proportions such as a slim drinking rim and a small circumference to help liquid funnel into the mouth instead of down the cheeks, they are a great way to ensure you child has a healthy sipping habit for life. Introducing an open cup at the start has another benefit – with a small cup, containing just a small amount of liquid, spills are kept to a minimum. As mealtimes are always supervised at this age, it’s a perfect time to drink at the same time as your little one so they mimic your actions and sip themselves.
- Overall wellbeing
Good oral health is considered an important aspect of a child’s overall health. It is linked to a good diet and an indication that children are thriving and getting what they need from food. Having healthy looking teeth also impacts a child’s emotional development too – having problems with their teeth early on not only means they are suffering with pain when eating or even disrupted sleep – but they may also be self-conscious about their appearance.
Finally, my top tips when weaning for looking after baby teeth:
- Avoid sugary food and drinks – the enamel of baby teeth is relatively thinner which makes them more vulnerable to decay
- Avoid frequent snacking on foods with high sugar/salt content
- Choose to give only water or milk as a drink
- Use an open cup like Babycup First Cups
- Brush twice daily with a fluoridated toothpaste
- Go to regular dental check ups for advice
Dr Jemma Hook aka The Mummy Dentist is a dentist and a mum, cutting through the clutter and giving real life guidance with the reassurance of expert knowledge and firsthand experience. (A pretty awesome combo)! Follow Jemma on Instagram @themummydentist for info and advice on caring for children’s teeth plus love and laughter aplenty!
You can buy Babycup First Cups from leading retailers or directly from the Babycup webshop: Babycup First Cups – buy now
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