The health and care of a child’s first set of teeth, also known as the primary or baby teeth, is significant for a number of reasons. Strong baby teeth help kids talk clearly, chew normally, and also help dictate how the permanent teeth will eventually erupt to form a child’s lifelong smile. To be clear, taking care of primary (baby) teeth is as important to young children as having healthy permanent teeth is to older children and eventually to adults.
Overall Heath Is Related To Strong Primary Teeth
A large amount of people are under the impression that baby teeth are not of great import, since they eventually fall out. Maintaining proper oral health from the beginning of tooth eruption is extremely important and has an effect on not only a children’s lifelong oral health but their overall health and well being as well. Healthy baby teeth are meaningful in and related to a child’s initial emotional, physical, and social development.
Healthy primary teeth specifically contribute to outstanding nutrition through the ability to chew properly and the initiation and development of proper speech. Also, when children have a healthy primary smile, they are proven to be able to pay attention and learn better in school, without the distraction and barrier of dental pain. A clean and healthy smile also promotes a strong self-esteem and self-acceptance among peers in young children during crucial years of early development.
See The Dentist Early For Healthy Baby Teeth
Because baby teeth typically tend to start ‘coming in’ between the age of 6 months and 1 year, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends children first visit the dentist for a professional examination within 6 months of the eruption of their first tooth (and no later than their first birthday). This early and proactive visit to the dentist is called a “well-baby” check up. During this initial visit, the dentist will evaluate the child for any preliminary tooth decay or other dental issues. The dentist will also talk to the parent/s about the correct way to brush the child’s teeth and address any habits the child may have formed that have the potential to adversely affect dental or overall health. These negative health-impacting habits could include things like going to sleep for a nap or bedtime with a bottle and finger/thumb sucking. Typically, by the age of 3 most children will have their full primary set of 20 teeth.
Healthy Baby Teeth Pave The Way For Healthy Permanent Teeth
One of the most important jobs of the primary set of teeth is to hold the space in the jaws that is essential for the proper development of the permanent adult teeth. Under the healthiest and best of conditions, the baby teeth stay in place in the child’s mouth right until the adult tooth underneath is ready to erupt through the gums. When the permanent tooth is ready to come in, the primary tooth becomes loose over the course of a few weeks to months. During this time, the roots of the baby tooth slowly fragment down and disintegrate, and eventually the baby tooth falls out. Then the permanent tooth begins emerging, typically a few weeks later.
Major spatial problems may ensue if a child loses a baby tooth too early, before the permanent tooth is ready to erupt. When a baby tooth is knocked out, falls out too early on its own, or the dentist must remove a primary tooth due to decay or other dental problems, the space where that tooth was housed must be maintained. If this space is not preserved, other teeth may shift and crowd into this space where eventually a permanent tooth needs to be able to emerge.
If for any reason a primary tooth is lost or removed too early, the dentist will likely insert a device call a space maintainer to fill the space of the primary tooth, until the permanent tooth is ready to emerge. This device retains the space eventually needed to house the permanent tooth and is essentially an appliance custom made for a child’s mouth out of metal or acrylic material. The job of the space maintainer is to keep other teeth from crowding, tipping, or straying into the empty space. If no intervention ensues in the space where a baby tooth is removed or falls out too early, the teeth surrounding may invade the empty space and cause permanent teeth to emerge improperly, negatively affecting the eventual location of other permanent teeth. When teeth become overcrowded and out of proper alignment, they become more difficult to clean properly, enhancing a child’s risk for developing dental disease and the eventual need for supplemental orthodontic treatment.
Types Of Space Maintainers
There are two types of space maintainers for children:
- Removable—These space maintainers are similar to orthodontic appliances and are usually made from acrylic material.
- Fixed—There are four separate kinds of fixed or permanent space maintainers. This includes unilateral, distal shoe, lingual, and crown and loop space maintainers. The type of necessary fixed space maintainer depends of the particular patient and their dental situation.
Not every child who loses a primary tooth prematurely will need a space maintainer, but if this occurs, a professional consultation with the dentist is necessary and recommended to evaluate the proper treatment for a child in this situation.
Space Maintainers: Read the information and instructions following space maintainer application.