The Importance of Primary Teeth 2018-05-14T18:32:54+00:00

The Importance of Primary Teeth

Primary teeth, also known as “deciduous teeth” or by their more common name “baby teeth”, will start to develop underneath the gums during the second trimester of pregnancy. The teeth will then begin to erupt between six months to a year of age, though in some cases they can come in earlier or later. Preschool-age children will typically have their complete set of 20 primary teeth, including the eight molars.

A common misconception regarding baby teeth is that they are not important, or not relevant to the future oral health of the child. The American Dental Association (ADA) emphasizes their importance, urging parents to schedule a first dentist appointment for their child within six months of the first tooth erupting.

Functions of Primary Teeth

Acquiring primary teeth is painful, but you can soothe tender gums with clean fingers, a damp gauze or cloth pads, or chewing rings. The eruption of baby teeth will be gradual, with the first teeth to appear usually being the two lower front teeth, followed by the two upper front teeth.

Primary teeth have many functions, which include:

Nutrition and Healthy Eating

Children with severely decayed or malformed primary teeth are more likely to be underweight and experience malnourishment and dietary deficiencies. Children need to acquire proper chewing motions, and this takes extensive practice and time. Nutritious eating and good chewing habits are promoted with healthy baby teeth.

Speech Development

Learning how to speak clearly is vital for emotional, social, and cognitive development. Properly positioned primary teeth will facilitate proper syllable pronunciation, as well as preventing the tongue from straying during the formation of speech.

Self-Confidence

Taking good care of baby teeth will promote more positive social interactions, confident smiles, and reduce the risk of bad breath, which all increase your child’s self-confidence.

Creating Space for Permanent Teeth

This is one of the most crucial reasons to take care of your child’s primary teeth. One of the primary jobs of baby teeth is to act as a proxy for the permanent teeth, saving a fixed place in the mouth for those teeth to grow, facilitating proper teeth alignment and promoting jaw development.

Teeth falling out too early because they have been injured or decayed can mean that the teeth will begin to move forward, or fill spaces improperly, as there isn’t anything preventing them from doing so. Forward moving teeth implies future complications, including a misaligned bite, crooked teeth, increased cavities, and needing to have braces or a retainer.

Regular fluoride supplements or treatments along with a sealant is important, as this will make the enamel stronger and more resistant to decay. You should always use fluoridated toothpaste and drink water that has been fluoridated whenever possible. It’s essential that your child is protected from oral injuries, and that you talk to your dentist if your child sucks their thumb or uses a pacifier after age two, as these habits need to be curbed.

Preventing Early Childhood Tooth Decay

A severe and common form of cavities found in children from one to four years of age is early childhood caries (ECC). If left untreated, the decay will spread deeper into the mouth, causing a painful infection and possible damage to the adult teeth.

A severely decayed tooth, or teeth, may need to be removed, which may require general anesthesia or treatment under sedation. When the tooth is removed too early, other teeth may move into that space, blocking the way for permanent teeth to erupt.

Contributing Factors to Early Childhood Caries

It’s important for parents to understand the factors that can contribute to ECC in order to help prevent it. These include:

  • Drinking a lot of sugary liquids, including soda, juices or sugar water
  • Frequent sweet snacks, along with a high snacking frequency
  • Sustained use of a sippy cup, baby bottle, or pacifier beyond the recommended age
  • Poor oral hygiene, such as lack of flossing or proper teeth brushing

Prevention of Early Childhood Caries

There are several ways you can help your child to avoid getting ECC, including:

  • Keep your children’s teeth clean. If they are not old enough to brush their teeth, wipe your child’s gums and teeth with a washcloth or damp gauze
  • Supervise your child’s teeth brushing until age six or seven, when they can be counted not to swallow or spit toothpaste
  • Limit sugary drinks and foods, and avoid filling their bottle or cup with soft drinks, juice or sugar water
  • Schedule their first dentist appointment within six months of the first tooth erupting. Regular dentist visits will ensure the development of your child’s teeth and gums is monitored, and any problems are caught early, lowering the risk of infection or disease.

Primary teeth will set up a child’s entire mouth for its later look and feel, so it’s essential that baby teeth are kept as long as possible, until the full permanent set of teeth erupts. Take care of baby teeth, and your child will thank you for it.

Make An Appointment

The benefits of proper orthodontic treatment and care go far beyond a more pleasing appearance; they include teeth that are more likely to last a lifetime and a healthier mouth. If you’re interested in undergoing orthodontic care, contact Cochran Orthodontics today to schedule your appointment.