The American Dental Association has designated February as National Children’s Dental Health Month. Oral health plays a significant role in overall health, especially as a person ages. Teaching children the importance of good oral hygiene habits can help them to develop lifelong healthy habits.
Children’s teeth are special!
Children develop just 20 primary teeth – also known as deciduous teeth, or baby teeth. These small pearly white gems do more than help a child eat. As a child grows, baby teeth the basis for healthy adult teeth.
Many parents don’t encourage their children to brush their teeth carefully, because they know baby teeth are destined to fall out. This is unfortunate because baby teeth play an important role in both the development of adult teeth and adult tooth spacing. Primary teeth can also develop cavities, which can lead to premature tooth loss and later orthodontic problems.
Most people assume that baby teeth fall out because they don’t have roots. Surprise! Baby teeth do have roots, but a child’s growing body reabsorbs the roots of deciduous teeth to help develop the child’s permanent teeth. A baby tooth will fall out after its root is reabsorbed, giving the false impression that it had no root.
Children usually shed their baby teeth between the ages of 6 and 12. Besides regular brushing and flossing, tooth banking is an additional step that can be taken to ensure the best possible long term dental health. In the future, advancements like stem cell dental patches and bio-engineered teeth could make routine treatments like dental fillings and dental implants a thing of the past. Those who have their own dental stem cells saved will be in position to take advantage of the best dental treatments our future has to offer.
What’s in a tooth?
Teeth aren’t like any other structure in the human body. They’re actually harder than bones, but they’re not classified as bones. Like bones, teeth are actually living tissues. They contain calcium, phosphorus and other minerals that are also found in bones. Unlike bones, they have a hard enamel cap. Food acids and decaying food can damage the enamel coating on teeth, but the body can’t repair damaged enamel. Proper, consistent dental care is needed to preserve a tooth’s enamel coating.
Underneath the enamel, teeth contain another special layer called dentin, which has sensitive nerve endings. Beneath the dentin, teeth also have a soft, living tissue called dental pulp. Each tooth also has its own blood supply to keep the living tissues underneath the enamel alive and healthy.
Keeping teeth healthy
Daily brushing and flossing can help keep teeth clean and remove acids that can damage tooth enamel. Regular dental checkups can also help spot problems that can lead to gum disease, tooth decay and tooth loss.
The dentist will remove a bacterial biofilm called plaque, which naturally accumulates on the teeth. Initially, plaque is soft, and tooth brushing can remove it. Plaque quickly hardens, however. Once it is hard, tooth brushing can’t remove the plaque. Plaque bacteria produce and harbor damaging acids that will eat away tooth enamel, and cause gum disease. Regular plaque removal at the dentist’s office can help keep teeth healthy and eliminate a buildup of this harmful bacteria.
Dentists will also repair any superficial damage to a tooth’s enamel to stop the decay process and prevent pain or discomfort. They can also seal a child’s newly emerged adult molars, to prevent the development of cavities. Regular x-rays also provide information about the health and development of a child’s teeth.
Occasionally, extraction is needed for teeth that get damaged beyond repair. In other cases, a dentist or orthodontist may recommend removing a tooth to improve another condition, like over-crowding. Finally, some teeth – like wisdom teeth – may be “sacrificed” to ensure the ongoing health of a person’s existing teeth.
In the past, extracted teeth were either discarded, or used as teaching tools for dentists-in-training. Today, we know that healthy dental pulp can be an excellent source of mesenchymal stem cells. and many parents are recognizing the value in storing these special cells for possible use in the future. These stem cells are at the forefront of the regenerative medicine revolution, and researchers and physicians are taking a good look at them in a wide variety of therapies– not only in dental therapies, but also for neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, to areas like spinal cord injury, corneal repair, and tissue engineering. Preserving these special cells is a simple, inexpensive way to secure the chance to harness their potential therapeutic abilities in the future.
National Dental Pulp Laboratory offers dental pulp stem cell banking services that enable families to preserve this valuable tissue for future use. If you would like more information about dental pulp preservation options through the National Dental Pulp Laboratory, please contact us at 1-(774) 843-2984, or explore more at http://www.ndpl.net.
Photo Credit: Greens MPs, via Flickr