As part of growing up, your child’s baby teeth fall out one by one to make room for their adult teeth. Throughout this process, regardless of your little one’s age or developmental stage, we encourage you and your kiddo to brush, floss, and stick to a low sugar diet in order to keep their teeth healthy. Why is that? Are those baby teeth even important if they’re going to fall out anyway? The answer is, YES! While the significance of baby teeth is often underestimated, they serve many vital roles and play a big part in your child’s oral health and development. Here, we’ll lay out some baby teeth facts and explore the reasons why they matter.
Baby Teeth Facts:
Primary teeth develop while in utero so when your baby is born, the teeth are waiting below the gums to make their debut. The first tooth usually sprouts around 6 months and by 2.5-3 years old, your little one will have a complete set of baby teeth. Then, typically around age 6-7 your child will notice their first baby tooth beginning to wiggle. From thereon, the primary teeth fall out sequentially until about 12 year old and only permanent teeth remain. This means that over the course of twelve years, your child will have some number of baby teeth in their mouth. Although that may not seem like a while, it’s more than enough time for dental issues to develop, especially if the teeth are not maintained. Cavities in baby teeth can be painful, costly to fix, and have long lasting effects on the development and spacing of the permanent teeth. With the many important functions of baby teeth, you’ll want to keep them healthy until it’s their natural time to go!
The purpose of baby teeth:
- Save Space for Permanent Teeth
One important role of baby teeth is to function as space holders for permanent teeth. Each primary tooth holds a place for the permanent tooth below it and serves as a guide for them to erupt. When a baby tooth is lost early, either due to a large cavity, infection or injury, a space is left behind. The neighboring teeth tend to shift into this space and can lead to crowding and misalignment of the teeth and jaws. With significant tooth movement and space loss, orthodontic issues can become extensive and require more time and expense to correct them.
- Help Guide Development of the Face
In order for a baby’s facial and jaw muscles to develop, they need to get good use and exercise. Healthy primary teeth allow for proper chewing and grinding of food, which gives these muscles the work out they need. In this way, baby teeth encourage facial muscles growth, strength, and coordination, and ultimately guide optimal facial development. Without healthy primary teeth that allow chewing, facial development can fall behind.
- Develop Speech
Speech is one of the primary ways we communicate and learning to communicate is a big part of children’s social and cognitive development. Teeth help to form certain sounds when speaking. For instance, “f” and “v” sounds involve the top teeth coming in contact with the bottom lip and strident sounds (think “shoe” and “sew”) are produced by friction of air hitting the teeth. Once a child grows their baby teeth, they can learn to speak correctly and articulate clearly. If a child loses their front baby teeth early due to cavities or injury, they may not have a chance to develop proper speech and articulation. In contrast, when front primary teeth fall out naturally around age 7-8, speech patterns are more ingrained and undisrupted as the new teeth find their way in.
- Chewing and Nutrition
Being able to chew food properly helps support nutrition and growth. When teeth are missing, decayed or cause pain, kids may limit what they eat to soft foods that don’t need chewing. This can lead them to miss out on essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients they need to grow big and strong.
- Build Self Esteem
Kids can feel confident about themselves when they have a bright, healthy smile. This is especially important in the school-aged years when teasing and bullying can be an issue. In addition, insecurities about their appearance and smile can affect their concentration and distract from schoolwork.
How to care for baby teeth:
- Brush, floss, and eat a low sugar diet:
Brushing twice a day, starting as soon as the first tooth erupts, flossing once daily and eating a well-rounded diet are key ways to keep baby teeth healthy. Check out our post on brushing your baby’s teeth for more tips!
- Prevent injuries:
Once your little one starts to toddle around, they are at increased risk of falling and bumping their teeth. Baby proofing and padding surfaces around the home certainly helps but sometimes, no matter how careful you are, accidents happen. If a baby tooth is knocked out by an injury, the tooth should not be re-implanted as it could damage the developing permanent tooth. Just come in for a visit so we can guide you through what to do next.
- Visit your pediatric dentist:
Finally, one last super important step for healthy primary teeth is regular dental visits. If your child is in need of a pediatric dentist, book an appointment at Sunshine Smiles Pediatric Dentistry. We’ll keep their baby teeth healthy and strong!