How Important are Baby Teeth?

Baby being happy, looking to the left of the screen, while holding a yellow blanket
We need teeth to chew before the mouth is big enough for our final set of teeth, so the body makes baby teeth!

We hear this question all the time, and to be honest, it makes us cringe.  Why?  Because baby teeth are so important that we would never even think to question them.  The fact that they fall out misleads many people into assuming that they are unimportant.  We hope this blog convinces you otherwise.

Why Do We Have Baby Teeth, Anyway?

It is all about the body’s need for the nutrition of solid foods before the jaws are large enough for “adult” teeth.  We need teeth to chew before the mouth is big enough for our final set of teeth, so the body makes baby ones.  Now let’s dive into the important things baby teeth do!

Nutrition

The ability to chew solid food is vital to the health and growth of a child.  It is impossible to obtain the necessary amount of vitamins, minerals, fat and protein through a liquid diet.  Baby teeth allow children to begin eating solid foods as early as one year of age, and they maintain that ability to chew until permanent teeth come in around age six.  That’s five years of nutrition that would otherwise be missed.

Speech Development

Long blonde haired girl with blue eyes and pink hat smiling, showing her baby teeth.
You cannot learn to speak properly without baby teeth.

Ask any speech therapist, and he or she will confirm the truth of this statement: You cannot learn to speak properly without baby teeth.  Children with missing or badly positioned teeth develop speech impediments that take years of therapy to correct.  The period of time when a child has baby teeth, from age six months to six years, is the time that the development of speech is most active.  While they may not know every word, they should know almost every sound used to make those words in their native language.  Missing baby teeth impair that learning process!

Facial Growth and Development

An important part of the growth of the face involves the growth of the upper and lower jaws.  An important part of the growth of the jaws is the position of the teeth.  The way baby teeth bite together has a huge impact on the way the face grows.  The act of chewing itself actually stimulates jaw growth.  Theoretically, if a child never chewed, the jaws would not grow.  That would lead to facial deformity.  Both the presence and function of baby teeth are essential for normal growth and development of a child’s face.

Why is it Important to Take Great Care of Baby Teeth?

So now you know why it is essential for tiny humans to have a set of baby teeth.  But is it super important to take great care of them if they are only working for those five years?

YES!

The first baby tooth comes into the mouth at age six months, on average.  The last baby tooth falls out of the mouth around age thirteen.  This section will explain why it is so important to take care of each individual baby tooth for those twelve-plus years.

Holding Space for Permanent Teeth

Each baby tooth is holding a place in the jawbone for an underlying permanent tooth.  Without a baby tooth “saving a seat”, other permanent teeth can sneak in and steal that space.

Taking great care of baby teeth is important to keep them free of cavities and infections.  When baby teeth get large cavities or infections, they cannot stay in the mouth and must be pulled.  Pulling a baby tooth is not only traumatic for your child; it also puts your child at risk for major orthodontic problems in the future, with teeth shifting inappropriately.

Protection of your Child against Pain and Infection

Child's mouth with baby teeth with cavities on them
Once a cavity starts on a baby tooth, it can spread much faster into the nerve of the tooth.

Many parents seem to be less concerned about cavities on baby teeth because they know that tooth will eventually fall out.  The problem with that mentality is that it puts your child at risk for pain and dangerous infections.

What most people do not know is that the enamel layer on baby teeth is much thinner than that of permanent teeth.  This means that once a cavity starts on a baby tooth, it can spread much faster into the nerve of the tooth.

Infections may also spread more quickly in a child.  Young people do not have immune systems as developed or efficient as adults.  Their little bodies aren’t able to fight an infection as quickly as an adult can, so infections can worsen and spread very rapidly.  In rare cases, children have died from tooth abscesses.  It’s simply not worth the risk.  Take great care of your kid’s baby teeth to ensure their overall health.

Do You Have More Questions about Baby Teeth?

Call today to schedule a consultation with our dentists.  We can answer any question you have about your child’s developing teeth and jaws.