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Do Baby Teeth Really Matter?

As a parent, you may have asked the question “Do baby teeth really matter?” When your child has a cavity that needs to be filled, you may be tempted to not complete the treatment because, after all, they are just baby teeth and will fall out anyway. Putting off dental treatment until your child is in pain will likely be more expensive in the long run and also more traumatic for your child. When baby teeth go untreated, a child can experience pain, infection and emotional issues.

It’s important to understand why baby teeth should be treated when they have a cavity or any other dental treatment that needs to be completed.

Here are some reasons why baby teeth really do matter and why they should be preserved:

Development of Healthy Permanent Teeth When a baby tooth falls out, there is a permanent tooth underneath it waiting to take its place. If a baby tooth has developed an infection or has waited too long to be treated, it can impact the developing permanent tooth below it. Permanent teeth develop in the bone below the roots of the baby teeth. If an infection goes untreated, there is a possibility that the infection from the baby tooth can cause issues with the permanent one developing underneath it. By treating baby teeth when the cavity is small, you decrease the chances that it will develop an infection and cause issues with the permanent tooth below it.

Hold Space for Permanent Teeth If a baby tooth falls out or needs to be removed out before it’s developmentally appropriate, it’s important to maintain the space so the permanent tooth has room to come through in the correct position. If a baby tooth is removed and space is not appropriately maintained, the permanent tooth can erupt in an incorrect position and cause many issues with crowding and ultimately affect the way the teeth fit together. When teeth are crowded and rotated, it also makes it more difficult for your child brush and floss adequately. These issues usually need orthodontics (braces) to get them back into their correct position.

Assist in Speech Development Another important function of baby teeth is to assist in proper speech development. During the years that children have baby teeth, they are developing their speaking skills and learning the proper tongue position to make those specific sounds. Some speech sounds require the tongue to touch the teeth to produce an appropriate sound. When the teeth are not present because they have been removed due to infection or for any other reason, it hinders the child’s speech development.

Proper Nutrition Healthy baby teeth provide your child with the ability to foster good nutrition through properly chewing a variety of healthy foods. When a child has dental pain or is missing multiple baby teeth, proper nutrition can be difficult as they are usually limited to eating soft foods. A quick search on Google for “soft foods” will show many foods that are high in sugar and carbohydrates. Sugar and certain carbohydrates increase the risk of dental caries. When your child has healthy, fully functional teeth, they are able to eat a variety of foods that will help ensure proper nutrition.

Prevention of dental decay is the key to healthy baby teeth. Speak with your dentist and dental hygienist about ways you can work together to keep your child’s teeth healthy.

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Sarah Lawrence,
Dental Hygienist, Myofunctional Therapist & Writer
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