Why Are Baby Teeth Important?
This is a question I receive in my practice quite often when parents learn their child has a cavity in a baby tooth that needs to be repaired:
“Why do you have to fix a cavity on a baby tooth that he/she will just lose anyway? Is it really necessary?”
It’s a great question!
Here’s the answer:
Baby teeth are very important. They play a critical role in chewing, and speaking – especially as language is developing, and in appearance. Baby teeth also help shape the form of the face. As important as all that is however, probably the most critical role baby teeth play in a child’s mouth is that of holding space in the jaw for the developing adult teeth.
Most parents don’t realize some baby teeth will remain in a child’s mouth until he/she is approximately 12 years old, so if a cavity is found in a baby molar at around 3 years of age, on a tooth that he/she will have until he is about 12, that’s potentially a span of 9 years for the decay to grow and worsen and create all sorts of problems, for instance difficulty eating, and the potential for abscess and infection.
What do I tell parents in my practice? When I find decay on a baby tooth, my general rule of thumb is to assess the size and location of the cavity and factor in the approximate duration of time the tooth will remain in the child’s mouth. For instance, if the cavity is very small, and the tooth will only remain in the child’s mouth for less than 6 months and doesn’t have the potential to spread to other teeth, I will most often watch it and allow nature to take it’s course. Instructing parents on good oral hygiene as a preventative measure.. If however, the decay is not minor and the child will have the tooth for more than 6 months and the decay has the potential to easily spread to other healthy teeth, the solution is to repair.
As always, it’s important to remember to take your child for regular dental check-ups, twice per year, to help maintain strong and healthy baby and adult teeth.
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