Just because your child’s primary teeth, often known as “baby teeth,” eventually fall out, doesn’t mean they’re not important. While the primary incisors last until 6-8 years old, the primary cuspids and molars remain in your child’s mouth until 10-13 years old. These primary teeth play an important role in your child’s overall health, development, and well-being for most of their childhood.
Much like your own permanent teeth, your child’s primary teeth require professional and at-home dental care. Decay can happen at any age, so it’s time to visit the dentist within six months of your child’s first tooth appearing, and certainly by age one. In addition to checking for tooth decay and other pediatric dental problems, your dentist will show you the best ways to start your child on a lifetime of good oral health habits.
What is the purpose of primary teeth?
Most children have a full set of primary teeth by the time they’re three years old. Primary teeth are important for many reasons. They:
- Promote good nutrition through proper chewing
- Assist in speech development
- Build self-esteem by providing a beautiful smile
- Enable the child to pay attention and learn in school without the distraction of dental pain
- Provide a path for permanent teeth to follow when they are ready to erupt
What happens if baby teeth aren’t taken care of?
Primary teeth can get cavities just like adult teeth. In addition to the pain caused by a cavity, young children can develop dental infections. Primary tooth decay is a serious, infectious, and transmissible disease that can spread quickly and lead to infection or abscess without proper precautions. This can be especially harmful to children because their immune systems aren’t fully developed. Neglected cavities can and frequently do lead to problems which affect developing permanent teeth.
If a tooth becomes infected and needs to be extracted, your dentist may recommend inserting a space maintainer. This will preserve the space for the permanent tooth. If the space is not preserved, other teeth may drift, causing difficult-to-treat crowding, impaction of teeth, and other orthodontic problems.
The most important aspect of taking care of your child’s primary teeth is the example you help to set. Early on, your child should develop the habit of brushing and flossing that will carry into adulthood. Healthy teeth also lead to easier dental visits, teaching your child that there is nothing to be afraid of at the dentist.