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They’re just baby teeth … right? | Auburn's Dr. Rich
Although a child’s primary, or “baby” teeth are only in the mouth until they reach their early teen years, they play a critical role in maintaining a healthy mouth and developing a normal facial profile.
Losing or removing primary teeth prematurely can dramatically increase the chances of crowded, crooked teeth when the permanent ones come in. Since the primary teeth act as placeholders to make sure the face and jaw develop properly, early and regular dental checkups for kids are critical.
A child begins learning to make the sounds necessary for speech with their lips, tongue and teeth long before they can actually talk. That cute lisp a 6-year-old normally might have for a few months when he loses his front baby teeth isn’t so cute if multiple front baby teeth are lost early and end up contributing to a lasting speech impediment or self-esteem issues.
Of course, decayed teeth are eventually painful and will become infected if not treated promptly. They may even need to be extracted if treatment is delayed too long. That can influence a child’s nutrition and proper development too, since she may tend to avoid crunchy vegetables or the other fibrous foods so necessary in a healthy diet.
Multiple missing teeth, or ones that hurt to chew on, will make a child gravitate toward easy to chew, overly-processed soft foods. Those usually are high in carbohydrates and simple sugars, which contribute to even more tooth decay.
As a general rule, for every six months of life, about four teeth will erupt into the mouth. Of course, this varies somewhat from child to child. The first two teeth to erupt are usually the two lower front teeth, followed by the two upper ones, and a child usually has all 20 primary teeth in the mouth by 3 years of age.
Since a child’s facial bones begin to grow significantly by about age 4, spaces should soon begin to develop naturally between the teeth. This is perfectly normal, and is actually a good sign.
If a child has no space at all between his primary teeth by the time he or she starts school, chances are high that he will need orthodontic care to help make the room needed for the much larger permanent teeth.
Your child will have a mixture of primary and permanent teeth until the last baby tooth is out, usually by 11 or 12 years of age, and will not get all 32 of the permanent teeth until his or her late teens. Please keep in mind that it is just as important to care for primary teeth as it is for permanent teeth during the first decade of life.
As you can now see, the idea that “they’re just baby teeth, so who cares?” is not a wise attitude. Even if ignoring the problem or extraction may seem like an easy solution at the time, it is usually not the best choice.
Dr. Stuart Rich, DDS., can be reached at 253-939-6900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.