You probably remember losing at least some of your baby teeth. Maybe you remember the feeling of wiggling one loose and the excitement of leaving it under your pillow for the Tooth Fairy to find? Have you ever wondered why we have baby teeth, though? It’s often painful when they break through the gums, and we lose all of them by the time we’re adults, so what is their purpose? Baby teeth, otherwise known as primary or deciduous teeth, have a number of functions, so let’s go through them. They:
Give the face its natural shape and appearance. There is nothing more beautiful than a child’s smile, especially a healthy one. A child’s self esteem is at least partially built on how the people he meets respond to him, so that smile has a lot of impact.
Hold the spaces that adult teeth will later occupy. Baby teeth make paths for the later adult teeth so they erupt in the places they are supposed as the child grows and the jaw becomes larger. Proper jaw development depends on these baby teeth as well.
Allow children to eat all kinds of food. Think about what an infant can eat compared to what a four-year-old child can. Without baby teeth, human beings would be stuck eating mashed or pureed vegetables, fruits, and meats for years, not having access to many nutritious and delicious but harder-to-eat foods.
Aid in speech development. Without teeth for the tongue to push up against, it would be nearly impossible to pronounce many consonants. Most of our words would be mumbled or indistinct. Complex forms of speech and communication is one important skill that differentiates us from other animals. Human societies, then, essentially needed baby teeth to evolve.
For all of these reasons, it’s important for parents to take care of their young children’s teeth, teach them good habits for oral health, and take them to the dentist when the time is right. Baby teeth are susceptible to decay just as adult teeth are, and dental infection can be dangerous for children to suffer because their immune systems are not fully formed.
When should your child see a dentist? Within six months of getting the first set of teeth is a good guideline to follow and then regular checkups after that. If your child is older than that and still hasn’t seen a dentist, don’t worry, just make the appointment. It’s never too late to begin to take proper care of your teeth, whether they are baby teeth or adult ones.
If you have questions about your child’s teeth, please call your dentist and make that appointment. Your dental hygienist will be happy to discuss further details about brushing and flossing with you and your child.