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Why Dentists Hate the Phrase: “Just Pull It. It’s Only a Baby Tooth”

There is a tragic misunderstanding among many parents that their children’s baby teeth do not matter.  This usually comes out in conversations between our family dentists and parents when a child has multiple dental problems that require necessary treatment.  When we hear the phrase—“Just pull it.  It’s only a baby tooth”— from a parent, we cringe.  Baby teeth are very important, and this blog will explain why.

The Important Functions of Baby Teeth

Any one of these functions is reason enough to protect and preserve baby teeth.  When you consider them all together, the importance of baby teeth is crystal clear.

Nutrition

The most obvious function of all teeth is to chew.  Without teeth, we are unable to get the appropriate nutrition we need for normal, healthy function.  For growing children, nutrition is of the utmost importance.  They must be able to chew meats (or other protein sources) and fruits and vegetables to receive the vitamins and minerals necessary for normal growth.

Speech

Teeth are essential for many consonant sounds.  The position of teeth affects the way the mouth forms certain sounds, so missing teeth or misaligned teeth can negatively impact the way a child learns to talk.  In order for your child to learn to speak properly, he or she must have a full complement of properly aligned teeth.

Jaw Development

The alignment of the upper and lower jaws to each other has a large impact on the way the jaws develop.  This growth is also affected by the ability to chew.  Obviously there is a big difference in the shape and size of the lower jaw in a small child versus that of an adult.  The way the teeth come together affects the way the jaw grows.

Normal Facial Growth

The growth of the lower jaw is an important part of the development of the overall appearance of the face.  Without teeth in the right place, the lower jaw will not grow as it should, and this changes the development of the face.  

Development of Permanent Teeth

Permanent teeth develop from the baby teeth.  If a child loses a baby tooth too early, or a baby tooth has a severe infection, the permanent tooth can suffer developmental abnormalities.  The baby tooth protects the underlying, growing permanent tooth.  Children who are missing a certain baby tooth will not have a permanent tooth in that same spot.

Holding Space for Permanent Teeth

If a baby tooth is lost prematurely (either knocked out or pulled due to dental disease), and the space it occupied is not held open, there may not be room for the permanent tooth to come into the mouth.  The baby teeth create and hold space for the permanent teeth to erupt into the proper position in the mouth.  

Why Do Baby Teeth Get Cavities So Easily?

One of the problems with baby teeth is that they get cavities very easily.  And once they have a cavity, it grows really quickly.  This is because the layer of enamel covering a baby tooth is much thinner than the layer of enamel covering a permanent tooth.  

Once the bad, cavity-causing bacteria break through the outer layer of enamel, they can quickly travel through the enamel into the core of the tooth. Cavities on baby teeth grow much faster than those on permanent teeth.  

How Do I Prevent Cavities on My Child’s Teeth

Because cavities are more likely and more aggressive on baby teeth, it is important to be as preventive as possible.  Make sure your toddler is not drinking anything besides water throughout the day.  Juices or milk are fine with a meal, but not overnight.  Help your child brush and floss (yes, floss) his or her teeth every night before bed.  Once your little one is old enough to not swallow mouthrinse, have them swish with an anti-cavity mouthwash like Act.  Limit sweets and candy to dessert time.  And definitely no sodas!  Soft drinks like Coke and Dr. Pepper are loaded with both sugar and acid, a disastrous combination for teeth.

What if a Baby Tooth is Too Bad to Save?

In some cases, despite how important they are, we are unable to save a baby tooth.  Baby teeth cannot have root canals because the roots must dissolve as the permanent tooth begins to come into the mouth.  For this reason, we cannot save a baby tooth that has an abscess or infection.  If the nerve inside a baby tooth is dead or dying, it must come out.

This is vital for your child’s overall health, and the importance of the whole body’s health and protection from dangerous infections trumps our desire to keep the baby tooth as long as possible.  To keep that tooth infection from spreading to others of the body, we must remove the tooth.

When we have to take out a baby tooth, it is important to hold or maintain the space that it was in.  This keeps the proper amount of space open for the permanent tooth and prevents situations where the permanent tooth comes into the mouth in the wrong position.  If a baby tooth must come out early, we will discuss your options to hold its space.

More Questions about Why Baby Teeth are so Important?

Contact Designer Smiles today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Ann and Dr. Lauren.  They can answer all of your baby teeth questions and help you get the best care for your little ones.

 

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