Primary teeth, also known as baby teeth, milk teeth and deciduous teeth, begin to develop underneath the gums. Usually, preschool children have a complete set of 20 baby teeth, including four molars on each arch.
One of the most common misconceptions about primary teeth is that they are irrelevant to the child’s future oral health. However, their importance is emphasized by the American Dental Association (ADA), which urges parents to schedule a “baby checkup” with a pediatric dentist within six months of the first tooth emerges.
Speech production and development – The proper positioning of primary teeth facilitates correct syllable pronunciation and prevents the tongue from straying during speech formation.
Eating and nutrition – Children with malformed or severely decayed primary teeth are more likely to experience dietary deficiencies, malnourishment, and to be underweight. Proper chewing motions are acquired over time and with extensive practice. Healthy primary teeth promote good chewing habits and in turn facilitate in proper nutrition.
Even very young children can be quick to point out ugly teeth and crooked smiles. Taking good care of primary teeth can help in boosting self confidence by making social interactions more pleasant, reduce the risk of bad breath, and promote confident smiles which will all lead to more positive social interactions.
Healthy primary teeth are very important as they maintain normal facial features. Early loss of primary teeth and failure to get them treated as soon as possible may lead to inadequate growth of the face and can have a negative impact on the child.
One of the major functions of primary teeth is to hold an appropriate amount of space for developing adult teeth also known as “Natural Space Maintainers” In addition, these natural space maintainers (primary teeth) facilitate the proper alignment of adult teeth and also promote jaw development. Left untreated, missing primary teeth tend to cause the remaining teeth to “shift” and fill spaces improperly. For this reason, pediatric dentists often recommend space-maintaining devices.
Badly decayed primary teeth can promote the onset of childhood gum disease. As a result of this condition, oral bacteria invade and erode gums, ligaments, and eventually bone. If left untreated, primary teeth can drop out completely – causing health and spacing problems for emerging permanent teeth. To avoid gum disease, children should practice an adult-guided oral care routine each day, and infant gums should be rubbed gently with a clean, damp cloth after meals.