Friday, October 23, 2015

Why are baby teeth important?

I sometimes find myself in a discussion with parents about the need to treat cavities in their children’s baby teeth. Most commonly I’m asked something like, “Does he really need to have these fillings? They are just baby teeth – they fall out.” While baby teeth will eventually be lost to the tooth fairy, they are vital to a child’s healthy development. Baby teeth are important for a number of reasons:

Space maintenance

Baby teeth serve as place holders for adult teeth. If a baby tooth is lost, the teeth beside it can drift into the empty space and block the path of the adult tooth. This can lead to crooked adult teeth.


It goes without saying that you need strong teeth to chew. Children who have pain from tooth decay will have difficulty chewing healthy, crunchy foods like whole fruits and vegetables.

Protect adult teeth

Decayed baby teeth that become abscessed can affect the unerupted adult tooth beneath, destroying the enamel of the forming permanent tooth.

Development of proper speaking and swallowing behaviors

Front teeth are used to pronounce a number of sounds, including “S”, “Th”, and “F”.  The proper position of the tongue when swallowing is developed around the position of the front teeth.  A child with missing or severely decayed front teeth is at risk of developing a speech impediment or tongue thrusting habit.

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