Adult teeth (permanent) are important. We only have one chance with them. There are no more backups if they fail. Unfortunately, baby teeth aren’t seen in the same light because they naturally fall out eventually.
I mean, if it’s going to fall out anyway, why bother? They can suffer tooth decay, be removed early and there’ll be no issues right?
Well, hold on. It ain’t that simple.
If It’s Going to Fall Out Anyway, Why Bother?
Baby (deciduous) teeth are useful for so many things. Obviously, baby teeth help children to chew their food. But more than that, they placeholders for the adult teeth to come into the right position, they help with speech development and of course, they are useful for a great smile!
But just for a second, imagine your local footy team. Every player has a different position right? There’s forwards and backs or defenders and attackers. The team needs every player in the right position to work together most effectively.
That’s just like baby teeth – they’re all useful in different positions for different reasons.
Looking at the front (anterior) teeth, they serve as useful landmarks for the tongue and lips and play a very big role in the development of speech and the ability to articulate certain sounds.
Loss of the front teeth can result in distortion of the continuant consonants (v, f, th, z, and s). Try it now – imagine saying “the” or “that” without your front teeth!
Making those sounds requires an airstream, with force, over a small space at the front of the mouth which produces friction. Because of this, children who lose their front teeth prematurely (before they should, usually due to decay or trauma) make compensations to produce the correct sounds by changing the positioning of tongue and lips, and adjustment of the air stream. This may lead to long-term effects on their speech development and the risk increases the younger the child loses the front teeth.
So, what about the molars (back teeth)? These guys are needed for the obvious chewing and breaking down of food in the mouth but what they also do is serve as place holders.
Picture a full book shelf. What happens when you simply remove one of the books in the middle? The rest of the them naturally collapse into the empty space. Well, this is what happens when a molar is loss prematurely.
Take for example the second baby molar (the very last baby tooth at the back, next to the the first adult molar if your kid has them already). Premature loss of this tooth can result in the following:
1. The adult first molar that in the neighbouring position tips and rotates out of place
2. Loss of space for the adult second premolar to come through (it replaces the baby second molar) which leads to crowding
3. Reduced general space (lee-way space) which may lead to the adult second premolar and canine to come through in odd positions
4. Cross-bite of the adult first molar (basically, a very wrong position)
Now, depending on the age of your child, early loss of other baby teeth can result in the same kinds of problems in other areas of the mouth – crowding, no space for adult teeth to erupt into, deep-bites and cross-bites.
Removing Baby Teeth
You might have already figured this one out but removing baby teeth before their time is up is not the most fun you can have at the dentist.
Heck, some kids hate wobbling their own baby teeth when they’re so wobbly they make the Leaning Tower of Pisa look bolt upright!
Obviously, we aim to prevent every child from ever needing to have a tooth removed and when it becomes absolutely necessary, we help you and your child through it in the best way possible.
Baby Teeth ARE Important
From the above, you can see that baby teeth are not “just baby teeth”. They are there for a darn good reason and they need to stay there for as long as needed until the adult teeth come through in place of them.
Studies have shown that children who have lost one or more baby teeth through age 9 are three times more likely to require orthodontic treatment and this likelihood increases with the number of prematurely lost teeth.
One More Thing To Chew On
What if there is no adult tooth there to replace the baby tooth?
Some unlucky kids are born without an adult or permanent tooth to replace the baby tooth. And if that baby tooth is compromised by tooth decay or infection… Well, that’s not a situation that any wants to have to deal with.
So, now that we know that baby teeth are important, what can you do to prevent your kids from tooth decay and early baby tooth loss?
Well, if you visit our other resources here and here, you’ll be off to a great start at protecting your kids’ teeth. And we’re always ready to welcome new kids into our practice and to help you to keep them as healthy as possible!
At Method Dental, we love seeing kids! The best result we see, time and time again, is that we have such a good time with the kids that they actually want to come back to the dentist! Imagine that…
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us via email or give us a call to see how we can help you to keep your kids cavity-free!
Dr. Grant McGrath BDSc
Jasmine Ooi BPharm