Primary teeth, otherwise known as the deciduous teeth or baby teeth, are the first set of teeth that develops in the mouth.
They start erupting at around 4-6 months after birth and are completed at age 2-3. There are a total of 20 primary teeth.
At age 6-7, they begin to shed off one by one to give way to the new set of teeth, called the permanent teeth.
When you think about it, if these teeth will be lost anyway, then why go all the trouble of fixing, saving, and preserving them?
Well, even though they will eventually be replaced, the primary teeth serve many purposes – in fact, they have the same function as the permanent teeth.
But to convince you more, here is a list of specific reasons that will tell you just how important these little pearly whites are.
They help kids speak more clearly
The first primary teeth to erupt in children’s mouth are the lower and upper incisors.
These teeth, and all the primary teeth in general, are crucial for speech development because they provide contact points for the tongue.
These contact points allow for certain sounds to be articulated properly when speaking. Learning to speak properly is very important for cognitive and social development.
If any of the primary teeth goes missing for whatever reason, speech impediment results.
They help kids chew properly and more efficiently
Again, the primary teeth have the same function as the permanent teeth especially when it comes to chewing food.
Like your permanent teeth, each primary tooth serves its own purpose. For instance, both primary and permanent incisors are for incising and tearing food, while the primary and permanent molars are for crushing.
We often see kids whose teeth are so badly-broken down that they find it so difficult to chew. Aside from the pain caused by the decay, they also suffer from not being able to enjoy their food.
This hinders them from getting proper nutrition which, in turn, results in failure to thrive.
They boost self-confidence
Another important purpose of healthy primary teeth is for social interactions. Having a perfect set of teeth makes you feel more confident about how you look, right? The same goes for a kid who has a healthy set of primary teeth.
Children, even the very young ones, can easily differentiate a perfect smile from an ugly one. Taking good care of your kid’s primary teeth helps prevent bad breath, promote healthy smiles, and make social interactions much more pleasant for him or her.
They maintain jaw space for the erupting permanent teeth
Sound primary teeth have certain width that allow them to maintain space for the future permanent teeth. Each primary tooth holds the space for their permanent successor, and they won’t let go until these successors are ready to come out.
Early loss of these primary teeth – particularly the molars – causes the remaining ones to drift into the space left by the missing tooth. This results to the entrapment or impaction of the permanent teeth. Trapped or impacted permanent teeth may or may not erupt.
If they erupt, it would be a partial eruption only and the tooth won’t be on its proper location. It would in front of or at the back of the existing teeth. Regaining lost space is possible through orthodontic treatment, but it can be difficult and expensive.
If a primary tooth cannot be saved and there’s no other choice but to get rid of it, there is still a way to keep the space open through the use of “space maintainer.”
A space maintainer is an orthodontic appliance consisting of a wire loop soldered to a metal band. The metal band is cemented on the tooth, while the wire loop extends across the gap and rests on the tooth on the other side of the gap.
The wire loop preserves the space left by the missing tooth by preventing the movement of the tooth on which the metal band is attached.
They preserve the health of the erupting permanent teeth
Early childhood caries is a severe form of tooth decay that affects children aged 0-4. If left untreated, the decay can affect the deeper parts of the tooth and eventually the underlying permanent teeth. This leads to the decay of the permanent teeth even before they erupt.
To avoid this, the decayed primary tooth may have to be removed. But this must be followed by the installation of a space maintainer to preserve the space.
Whenever possible, saving a primary tooth is must for the reasons stated above. For more information, consult your general dentist or if possible, your pediatric dentist as soon as your kid’s primary teeth erupt.
A pediatric dentist is someone who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of dental issues not just of young children, but of adolescents as well.