Baby Teeth – the beginning of lifelong oral health

A lifetime of good oral health starts with baby teeth and although these teeth will eventually fall out and be replaced by adult teeth they are extremely important and must be looked after.

Baby teeth:

  • Help children chew food easily and properly.
  • Help children develop speech and speak more clearly.
  • Guide the proper eruption of permanent adult teeth.
  • Set the stage for a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Dental decay is one of the most common dental diseases we find in children’s teeth. If you have ever had a toothache, you know how painful it is. Baby teeth are just as prone to cavities as adult teeth. You want to keep those cavities away to avoid toothache, facial swelling, costly dental treatment and early loss of a tooth. Factors which contribute to decay include:

  • Diets high in sugar (a high frequency of snacking, particularly on sticky and sugary snacks).
  • Poor tooth brushing and flossing technique.
  • Limited access to fluoridated water.


As dental decay is largely the result of lifestyle factors, it is preventable with lifestyle modifications. To avoid decay, pain and the orthodontic complications caused by early tooth loss, it is important to do the following:

  • Keep your child’s teeth clean – brush twice daily and floss at night with adult supervision. This is the easiest way to keep teeth healthy.
  • Limit sugary drinks (especially for babies). Milk, juice and formula all contain sugar. Avoid putting them in the bottle and sippy cup to sooth your child. Fill them with water instead.
  • Limit sweet and sticky foods
  • Regular dental check ups with your dentist or oral health therapist to monitor the development of your child’s teeth and gums to catch problems early and prevent disease.

Each baby tooth holds a space for the permanent tooth that will follow it and doesn’t fall out until the permanent tooth is ready to come in. Together, the baby teeth help maintain the proper spacing of all the teeth in the jaw. Removing a tooth prematurely due to severe dental decay, particularly in the back of the mouth, is like taking out a brick in the arch – the arch can collapse. If posterior (back) baby teeth are lost prematurely, the adjacent teeth will often drift into the empty spaces, greatly increasing the risk of a malocclusion (bad bite) occurring.

space loss

This means that the permanent teeth may come in improperly or possibly not at all, and your child could require orthodontic treatment to correct the problem. Where possible, saving a badly decayed tooth rather than losing it prematurely is often a better alternative. If a tooth must be removed prematurely, it is best to see an orthodontist to assess the risk of potential space loss so that appropriate treatment can be rendered.