As a Pediatric Dentist, the most common question that I am asked is “Do baby teeth really require dental treatment?”
Yes, it is true that primary/baby teeth are temporary and eventually fall off but they serve a variety of important functions in the mouth. The last primary tooth sheds around 10-12 years of age. This is a long time and makes it imperative to preserve them in a healthy state as they form a foundation for the health of permanent teeth.
Apart from looking cute and enhancing a child’s smile, other functions of primary teeth include:
- They make sure children receive proper nutrition for optimal growth and development by helping in biting and chewing. Various studies have reported that children with multiple decayed teeth have decreased haemoglobin values.
- They maintain the space required for eruption of their successive permanent teeth. In case of premature loss of primary teeth, especially primary molars, the adjacent teeth tip into the empty space resulting in space loss and malalignment of the permanent teeth warranting future orthodontic treatment (braces).
- As permanent teeth develop in the bone very close to the primary teeth, infection of primary teeth if left untreated can progress to infect the bone as well. This creates an unfavourable environment for the development of permanent teeth leading to unfavourable changes in their physical and chemical composition.
- Baby teeth act as a stimulus for the development of jaw bones and muscles.
- They help in proper development of speech. Sounds from alphabets like t, d, n and l are made with the help of teeth.
- A smile with healthy and well aligned teeth boosts self confidence especially in adolescence.
One should encourage development of good oral hygiene practises in children right from the beginning. Establishment of a ‘dental home’ and biannual visits to a pediatric dentist will go a long way in maintaining both baby and permanent teeth in good health.
Note: Author is a free lancer, Clinical Head at AIMIL Junior Smiles Dental & Medical Centre and is not associated with BLK Hospital. Blog Post shared for academic interests.