Why Are Primary Teeth Important?
One of the most common dental misconceptions is that a child’s primary teeth, also known as baby teeth and deciduous teeth, are unimportant or irrelevant to the child’s oral health later in life. After all, primary teeth fall out eventually, right?
While it is true that primary teeth will be replaced by permanent teeth, this doesn’t change the fact that primary teeth are an essential part of a child’s physical and mental development. Good oral health as a child sets them up for a lifetime of strong, healthy teeth.
Primary teeth begin developing beneath the gums in the second trimester of pregnancy before the child is even born. Teeth emerge between the six- and twelve-month mark. The American Dental Association (ADA) suggests parents should take their children to see a pediatric dentist for a “well-baby” checkup approximately six months after their first tooth emerges.
Incoming primary teeth can be painful for the child, but biting on chewing rings, clean fingers, and wet gauze pads can relieve them of discomfort. Eruption begins at the front of the mouth and happens gradually. By the time children turn three, they should have a full set of primary teeth.
The functions of primary teeth
If children’s primary teeth are subject to decay or fall out prematurely, many complications can arise, leaving the child to go through a lifetime of orthodontic complications and complex dental procedures. Maintaining the primary teeth is key to healthy permanent teeth and a beautiful smile.
There are five main functions of primary teeth:
Eating and nutrition – Proper eating habits and chewing motions are learned with practice over time. Children with malformed and decayed primary teeth will struggle with eating and are likely to be underweight and experience malnourishment and dietary deficiencies. Healthy primary teeth facilitate nutritious eating and good chewing habits.
Straighter smiles – Primary teeth promote healthy jaw development and create the necessary space in the mouth needed for adult teeth to come in with proper alignment. If primary teeth are allowed to fall out prematurely, the remaining teeth are left to shift and fill in the empty spaces, leading to orthodontic issues. Pediatric dentists recommend space-maintaining devices in these cases.
Speech production and development – A child’s cognitive, emotional, and social development greatly relies on their ability to speak clearly. The proper alignment of primary teeth keeps the tongue in place during speech formation and allows for correct syllable pronunciation when the child is learning to talk.
Excellent oral health – Poorly cared for and decayed primary teeth are subject to premature loss, leading to spacing problems for emerging permanent teeth and health issues. They may also promote oral bacteria formation and eroded gums, ligaments, and bones. Periodontal disease is a serious condition that can be avoided with a proper daily adult-guided oral care routine. Infants’ gums should be cleaned with a damp cloth after each feeding.
Self-confidence – Misaligned, crooked, decaying teeth and bad breath are subject to scrutiny by other children and can quickly affect a child’s confidence in their appearance. Properly maintained primary teeth reduce the risk of bad breath and promote positive social interactions and positive smiles.
To express any questions or concerns you may have about primary teeth, please contact your Brooklyn Dentist.