Baby teeth are meant to make way for permanent ones, but the key to a lifetime of health and wellness lies in nurturing those tiny pearly whites and maintaining proper oral hygiene, says an expert during National Children's Dental Health Month.

According to Dr. Sarah Khan, Clinical Assistant Professor, at the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at NYU College of Dentistry, "Dental health better known as oral health is very important in kids because optimal oral health as a child will set you up for a lifetime health and wellness."

"Although primary teeth (also known as milk teeth or baby teeth) eventually do fall out they are incredibly important for allowing adult teeth to grow in the proper position, aid in speech and language development as well as contribute to a child's self-confidence," Dr. Khan told Medical Daily.

Dental caries, also known as cavities, are the number one chronic condition facing children today, surpassing asthma. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) reports that dental issues result in the loss of 34 million school hours each year. These urgent dental care needs can be painful and, in certain cases, pose life-threatening risks.

Fortunately, there's positive news: cavities are nearly entirely preventable by establishing a dental home and adopting effective oral hygiene practices, as stated by Dr. Khan.

Dental home is the ongoing relationship between the dentist and the patient, inclusive of all aspects of oral health care. "The AAPD recommends establishing a dental home by age 1 or six months after the eruption of the first primary tooth. When established early, a dental home can serve as a source of anticipatory guidance and a place to discuss the prevention of dental caries as well as to monitor proper growth and development," Dr. Khan explained.

In addition, the best tip to improve children's oral health is to incorporate a routine of brushing twice a day, regular flossing, and a healthy diet, she added.

Tips To Improve Child's Oral Health:

Start right from pregnancy: According to experts, a child's dental care awareness should be initiated right from pregnancy. Research indicates a strong correlation between a child's oral health and their mother's awareness about habits like a healthy diet and oral hygiene. Expectant mothers face an increased risk of dental health issues during pregnancy, which could potentially impact the baby's future health.

Keep an eye on the child's diet: Incorporate calcium-rich foods like yogurt, broccoli, and milk to promote the development of strong teeth. Opt for healthy snacks such as fruits and vegetables, steering clear of candies and cookies. Make a shift to water instead of sugary drinks and sodas for better oral health.

Nurture healthy habits: Avoid putting babies to bed with a bottle to prevent tooth decay, and wipe their gums after each meal in the initial months before teeth emerge. As they progress, instill the routine of brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. If your child is under 2 years old, it's advisable to consult a doctor before introducing fluoride toothpaste.