Just because your child’s primary teeth, often known as “baby teeth,” eventually fall out, doesn’t mean they’re not important. Primary teeth play an important role in your child’s overall health, development, and well-being.
Much like your own permanent teeth, your child’s primary teeth require professional and at-home dental care. Decay can happen at any age, so it’s time to visit the dentist within six months of your child’s first tooth appearing, and certainly by age one. In addition to checking for tooth decay and other pediatric dental problems, your dentist will show you the best ways to start your child on a lifetime of good oral health habits.
Most children have a full set of primary teeth by the time they’re three years old. Primary teeth are important for many reasons. They:
Primary teeth can get cavities just like adult teeth. In addition to the pain caused by a cavity, young children can develop dental infections. Primary tooth decay is a serious, infectious, and transmissible disease that can spread quickly and lead to infection or abscess without proper precautions. This can be especially harmful to children because their immune systems aren’t fully developed.
If a tooth becomes infected and needs to be extracted, your dentist will recommend inserting a space maintainer. If the space is not preserved, other teeth may drift, causing difficult-to-treat crowding and orthodontic problems when permanent teeth come in.
The most important aspect of taking care of your child’s primary teeth is the example you help to set. Early on, your child should develop the habit of brushing and flossing that will carry into adulthood. Healthy teeth also lead to easier dental visits, teaching your child that there is nothing to be afraid of at the dentist.
Children’s teeth begin forming before birth. The first primary (or baby) teeth erupt as early as 4 months of age, and as late as 11 or 12 months of age. The first teeth to erupt are generally the lower central incisors, followed by the upper central incisors. Although all 20 primary teeth usually appear around age 3, the pace and order of their eruption varies. Permanent teeth begin appearing around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until approximately age 21 when the wisdom teeth erupt.