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December 5th, 2013

Your dentist will often use advanced measures to save your child’s baby teeth (called deciduous teeth, like the trees that lose their leaves).  Although some people feel that, since they will be lost anyway, it is not worth spending time, expense, and effort to save them.  But nothing could be further from the truth.
Your child’s teeth are obviously important to chew with.  Good nutrition and the ability to eat a variety of foods are important for basic health and forming good eating habits at an early age.  Keeping the teeth healthy and your child out of pain are critical for basic function.
Critical at this age is also the development of proper speech patterns.  Without the teeth in proper position, the tongue and lips can adapt to poor habits, affecting future function.
The baby teeth act as space maintainers to help the permanent teeth erupt in the proper positions.  The six year molars, which come in behind the baby teeth, are held back in their place by the deciduous arch.  If baby molars are missing, it can allow the permanent molars to drift forward into the space needed for the future premolar teeth.  Additionally, early loss of baby teeth can delay the eruption of the permanent teeth and cause misalignment that requires braces to correct.
Finally, the appearance of missing or diseased teeth can lead to social problems.  A poor smile can lead to insecurity or embarrassment that can stay with a child for a lifetime.  We are all judged by our appearance to some degree, and a healthy mouth and teeth are an integral part of that factor.
When should you allow your child to brush their own teeth?  Every child is different and parents can best evaluate when their child is responsible and able to concentrate on brushing thoroughly for 2 minutes.  The decision may be influenced by the dental history of the child.  Kids with a history of cavities may need closer supervision for a longer period than those who have been cavity free.
One author had a somewhat interesting answer to the question.  He suggested that you can trust your child to brush their own teeth well enough when you might trust them to brush your teeth for you.

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