FAQ: Why are baby teeth important?
They’re going to fall out anyway, right?!
Baby teeth, or primary teeth, are present in the child’s mouth from around 6 months until they are twelve. Baby teeth are critical for a child’s eating, smiling, speaking, and facial development. With good brushing and flossing, and with a reasonable diet consisting of mostly healthy foods, cavities can be avoided. If a tooth gets a cavity, typically it can be fixed with a white filling or a cap, and be saved. We always try to save teeth if at all possible. Unfortunately, baby teeth that get infected or have lost too much tooth structure need to be removed. This can cause many problems in the child’s developing mouth. If a back tooth or canine tooth is lost early, the other teeth around it will shift and fill that space. When this happens, there is not enough room for the permanent tooth to erupt and braces are typically needed to push the teeth back to their normal positions and gain the space once again. Luckily, if a front tooth is lost too early from trauma (the tooth gets knocked out) or from infection, there typically aren’t too many problems (except a toothless grin for photographs!). Studies have shown that missing front baby teeth do not typically affect speech or eating habits. When these teeth are lost too early, it can delay the eruption of the permanent tooth a year or two, which concerns many parents.
If a baby tooth has to be removed early, we often recommend a spacer or space maintainer to keep the other teeth from shifting and filling the space that is needed for the permanent tooth to erupt. Sometimes if the permanent tooth will erupt soon, a spacer is not needed. If your child needs a tooth extracted, always be sure to ask if a spacer is needed to avoid the need for braces, or at least the need for more complicated braces later.
If you have any questions about this post, or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact Dr. Baxter and the team at 205-419-7444.