Baby teeth start appearing as early as 3-4 months of age, but they really start to erupt through the gums between the ages of 6 months to one year. The timing of eruption generally varies but all 20 primary teeth (baby teeth) usually erupt by the age of three. Baby teeth are important even though they fall out and are replaced with permanent teeth. Let’s see why.
Purpose of Baby Teeth
Children have a full set of primary teeth by the time they turn three. Baby teeth or primary teeth are important as they:
- Promote good nutrition through proper chewing
- Offer a path for permanent teeth to follow when they are ready to erupt
- Assist in speech development
- Promote attentiveness in school without getting distracted due to dental pain
- Build self-esteem by providing a beautiful smile
Why Should You Take Care of Baby Teeth
Even children with primary teeth can suffer from cavities, which can further lead to other dental infections. You need to take careful precautions as primary tooth decay is infectious, serious and a transmissible disease that spreads quickly and leads to abscess or infections. This proves harmful to children as their immune system don’t develop fully at that age.
Encourage your kids to develop good dental habits like brushing and flossing regularly. Healthy teeth mean smoother dental visits. Teach them that regular dental checkups are important and necessary orthodontic treatment is nothing to be afraid of.
Importance of Baby teeth to Permanent Teeth
Baby teeth hold the space in the jaws that is required for correct development of permanent teeth. Generally, under healthy circumstances, baby teeth stay in the mouth until the permanent teeth are ready to erupt. The roots of the primary tooth would break down, loosening the tooth which, eventually, falls out. The permanent tooth starts emerging a few weeks later.
If the child loses a baby tooth early or before the adult tooth is ready to emerge, it can cause spatial problems for permanent teeth like crooked teeth. If the tooth is knocked out accidentally or extracted due to decay, then it is important to preserve the space where the tooth is lost.
Baby teeth are also important to the development of jawbones and muscles, which is why it is important that they guide the adult teeth into position correctly. If no actions are taken if a baby tooth falls out early or is removed before permanent teeth come out, the teeth on either side of the open space may shift and invade the open space.
If this happens, there won’t be space for permanent teeth to emerge in their correct position and negatively impact the positioning of the other teeth as well. Teeth crowding or misaligned teeth become harder to clean, increasing the risk of dental disease in children. Moreover, it also increases their chance of requiring more orthodontic treatments in the future.
Should a Baby Tooth be Extracted?
Only those specializing in pediatric orthodontics can answer this question accurately as requirements for each child would be different. If some baby teeth are taking longer to fall out, it may create a few orthodontic issues. In such cases, the orthodontist would suggest extraction of the tooth to make way for normal eruption and development of the adult teeth. Some reasons why baby teeth or even permanent teeth need may require extraction include overcrowding, protrusion, and underbite or overbite correction.
Get a second opinion just to be sure that an extraction is required. Check if your kid needs any beneficial orthodontic adjustment before the tooth extraction and determine the best time for early treatment, since it varies depending on the child’s growth and development.
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Dr. Satish Pai is an Ivy League trained dentist and a faculty at Columbia University. He believes that a perfect smile not only makes a person look great but feel great while boosting confidence. As the founder of Putnam Orthodontics, he is dedicated to not only creating perfect smiles for his patients but also educating people with his engaging articles about all things related to a perfect smile and oral health. Spending time with his family always brings a smile on his face. In his free time, you can find him golfing, doing yoga or surfing.