There are many reasons primary or “baby” teeth are important for your child. They allow children to chew properly, speak clearly, and they also help to form a path for the permanent teeth to follow when it is time for them to erupt.
Most children do not have the manual dexterity to brush every surface of every tooth in their mouth until about 7–8 years of age. A good rule of thumb: when they can tie their shoes completely on their own they may have developed the necessary dexterity.
Many children have gaps between their teeth when they first erupt. The back teeth get closer together over time. Daily flossing (with a parent’s help) should begin as soon as the first teeth come in contact with each other. In some children, the first two teeth are already in contact.
Your saliva helps to protect your teeth by decreasing the acidity in your mouth (raising the pH) which lowers the rate of decay. At night, your saliva production almost completely ceases, so it’s very important that there is no plaque on the teeth while you sleep.
Thumb sucking is perfectly normal for infants and most stop the habit on their own by age 2. Most children also stop using the pacifier on their own. If your child does not stop thumb or finger sucking or the use of a pacifier on their own, discourage the habit after age 4. Prolonged thumb or finger sucking or pacifier use can create crowded, crooked teeth and bite problems. Your pediatric dentist can help you with advice and techniques to help stop the habit.