Why Are Baby Teeth So Important - savina dental clinics malta

Baby teeth, the teeth your baby will grow in the first few years of their life, are eventually changed long before they become an adult. This should not be taken to mean that you don’t need to give them proper attention and care. Indeed, baby teeth should be taken care of in much the same way as adult teeth.

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When do baby teeth come in and fall out?

Also known as primary teeth, baby teeth appear in the first years of a baby’s life. The teeth last through childhood unless cavities and other dental health issues affect them.

The appearance of baby teeth

The first baby teeth begin appearing when the baby is between six to twelve months. Although babies are born with a complete set of baby teeth embedded in their jaws, it takes time for the teeth to erupt through the jawbone and the gum.

The front two teeth on the lower jaw are almost always the first ones. Their equivalents on the upper jaw quickly follow them. These two pairs of teeth are known as central incisors. The central incisors are followed by the two pairs of adjacent teeth, known as lateral incisors, in the same lower-upper jaw order.

After the eight incisors appear, they are followed by the first two pairs of molars. The child now has twelve teeth. The next set of four is the canines, which grow in the space between the incisors and the molars.

The final set of primary teeth to appear is the child’s second pair of molars which grow at the rear of the lower and upper jaws. This completes the set of 20 baby teeth, all of which should have erupted by the time the child is three years old.

Falling out (exfoliation) of baby teeth

Baby teeth start falling off by the time they are five or six years old. The teeth fall off in the same order they appeared, with the central incisors going off first and the second molars the last. Permanent adult teeth replace the exfoliated baby teeth in short order. By the early teenage years, all 20 baby teeth will have been replaced. The child will also grow another three sets of molars to complete the set of 32 adult teeth. The first set appears at around 6 years of age, the second at around 12-14 years and the last set (wisdom teeth) appears at 18 years of age or later. Wisdom teeth are not always present so, in fact, the permanent dentition consists of between 28-32 teeth.

Why baby teeth are important?

Baby Teeth

Baby teeth are essential not just for children’s dental health but also for later life. Here is a look at the top reasons why taking care of baby teeth is important.

Preparing the way for the permanent teeth

Primary teeth act as placeholders for the permanent teeth the child will need for the rest of their life. The roots of the baby teeth make way for the growth of adult teeth which erupt along the same channels used by baby teeth in the jawbones and gum. If primary teeth fall off long before they are due, the adult teeth can be irregular and misaligned, especially if the teeth on either side of the gap move into the space left when the baby tooth was extracted.

Chewing

As the child’s diet improves to more solid foods, the number and structure of their baby teeth improve to help them chew. By the time the growing child has grown both sets of molars, they can chew even tough foods almost as easily and effectively as adults.

Development of facial bones and muscles

The order in which baby teeth erupt is essential for the development of the rest of the jaw area and face of a child. Over the years, while primary teeth appear, the jawbones are growing bigger and stronger and taking the shape they will retain throughout adulthood. The muscles and ligaments attached to these bones are also dependent on the appearance and health of the teeth.

Helps a child speak quickly

The development of speech is an important process in the growth and development of children. This takes place in tandem with the eruption of primary teeth. As the child grows more teeth, they are able to increase the variety of their diction and vocabulary. The teeth, the tongue, and the mouth cavity are all important in vocalizing different speech sounds the child needs to communicate with others.

Confidence and self-esteem

Baby teeth are very prominent markers of growth and development. As they appear, the child will develop greater confidence and appreciation of who they are. As children begin interacting with others, especially in the early school years, it is essential that they have a set of regular and healthy teeth. Otherwise, their confidence and self-esteem may suffer.

Helps teach a child good dental care

As a parent, you should take advantage of the development of baby teeth to teach them dental hygiene. It is never too early to start teaching a child how to take good care of their teeth. It would help if you instilled in the child the habit of regularly brushing and taking good care of their teeth as soon as they have the motor skills to hold and use a toothbrush. Once they get the hang of it, they will likely retain the habit for a lifetime.

Helps prevent cavities

If baby teeth have cavities and the child suffers dental pain, they may be inclined to improve their oral hygiene habits and diet that can reduce the risk of caries on the permanent teeth.

What would happen if you didn’t take care of baby teeth?

Compared to permanent teeth, baby teeth have a much thinner and weaker enamel layer. Their roots are also not as deep or firmly affixed to the jawbones. As such, they are a lot more vulnerable to damage and health issues than permanent ones.

If baby teeth are not adequately taken care of, they may develop cavities more quickly than permanent teeth. Indeed, cavities and tooth decay are the most common problems affecting baby teeth. This often happens from a lack of regular brushing or a diet which is too sugary or acidic.

The importance of baby teeth for the health and wellbeing of a child cannot be overstated. Failing to take good care of these primary teeth can lead to irreparable damage that could last a lifetime. On the other hand, taking proper care of baby teeth will see a cascade of benefits that will last the child through adulthood.

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Joseph Xuereb
Principal Dental Surgeon & Owner of Savina Dental Clinics, Dr Joseph Xuereb BChD (Hons), MFGDP(UK), MGDS RCS(Eng), FFGDP RCS(UK), FICD is a general dental practitioner with a special interest in Implant and Restorative Dentistry. Dr Joseph & the teams' full biographical information can be found here.