Have you ever wondered why we have baby teeth? It’s kind of interesting that we are born with permanent limbs and other body parts, but the first teeth we have are only temporary.
You, like many parents, may have even wondered the following:
Why should I take care of my child’s baby teeth? They’re just going to fall out someday and can’t I just make sure that we take better care of the permanent teeth?
A common misconception among parents is that the baby teeth are “practice teeth” and therefore aren’t important. To be honest, if your child has a lot of cavities and ends up losing their baby teeth early, this will probably affect their permanent teeth.
Let me explain some of the reasons why baby teeth are important.
Why Baby Teeth Are Important
1 – The baby teeth are placeholders for the permanent teeth. The body naturally loses baby teeth in a certain order to allow enough room for the permanent teeth to come in. If the teeth fall out earlier, you disrupt this order and there may not be enough room for the permanent teeth. Luckily, a dentist can make an appliance called a space maintainer or spacer that will make sure there’s enough space for the permanent tooth to come in.
To learn more about space maintainers, read What a Space Maintainer is and Why Your Child Might Need One. If you want to see how a space maintainer might look inside of your child’s mouth, you can see a picture in my article What a Space Maintainer Will Look Like In Your Child’s Mouth.
2 -Cavities in baby teeth can cause infections that can harm your child and damage the developing permanent teeth. If the baby teeth are damaged, the damage isn’t isolated to the baby teeth. When a cavity reaches the pulp (the nerve) inside the tooth, it enters the bloodstream and can cause an infection. Usually the infection stays around the root of the tooth, but it can spread to other places in the body. The infection can cause a swelling in the cheek area or rarely it can spread to the brain, as in the tragic story of Deamonte Driver.
If a baby tooth gets a cavity that infects the pulp inside the tooth, it can cause an infection at the end of the tooth that is close to the developing permanent teeth. There is some evidence that has shown that inflammation in the root area of baby teeth can damage the permanent teeth.
3 – Baby teeth allow the child to develop good oral hygiene habits. It is much easier to teach a child the right brushing and flossing habits when they are young than it is to retrain an older child who has had bad habits for years. While I don’t like to consider the baby teeth to be “practice teeth”, I do think parents should use the time before their children’s permanent teeth come in to teach them how to take care of their teeth. If this is done, there will be fewer problems with the child’s permanent teeth because the child will know how to take care of them.
4 -Unhealthy baby teeth can cause a child to have low self-esteem. The most common place for cavities in children is in between the front teeth. If a little boy or girl has to walk around with brown spots on their front teeth, it can make them self-conscious and decrease their sense of self-worth.
5 – They help children eat nutritious food. That may not seem like a very big deal, but the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry has noted that kids with lots of cavities may be severely underweight due to pain when they try to eat. Painful eating can cause them to lose the desire to chew foods and may cause them to choose foods that aren’t very nutritious. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry has also noted that nutritional deficiencies during childhood can impact cognitive development.
Although having healthy teeth to chew food may not seem too important, it can help ensure adequate development of your child.
I can’t stress enough the importance of taking care of your child’s baby teeth. Keep in mind that cavities are caused by bacteria, and tooth decay is a serious disease — the most common disease in children!
Luckily we do get two sets of teeth, but it is important to take care of both sets!
If you know anyone who doesn’t understand the importance of baby teeth, please consider sharing this article with them. If you have any questions, comments, or anything that I might have left out above about the importance of baby teeth, please leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!