BABY TEETH ARE THEY VERY IMPORTANT?
“Baby teeth” (also known as milk teeth) are scientifically known as “primary teeth”. They are 20 in number (10 teeth in each jaw). The first baby teeth usually start to push through the gum (erupt) when the baby is around six years of age. The last teeth erupt around two and a half years of age.
Baby teeth are eventually replaced with adult teeth/ permanent teeth. However, the entire process of replacing primary teeth with permanent teeth takes a long time.
In simple terms, the first baby teeth will be replaced with its successor permanent teeth around six years of age and the last tooth around twelve years of age. This is important as the baby tooth stays in the mouth for over 8 years (in average). The last baby tooth that is replaced with the adult tooth stays in the mouth for around ten years from the time it erupts.
Why care for the baby teeth (…they will fall anyway)? Like adult teeth for us, baby teeth are essential for children to chew and eat their food. As they are in a rapidly growing age, properly maintained baby teeth can help children in getting adequate nutrition from the food by proper chewing. Baby teeth are also natural space maintainers in the jaw for adult teeth to erupt properly at a later age.
Baby teeth like any adult teeth are prone to developing cavities, if not maintained properly. Once the cavities develop, it becomes harder for children to clean the teeth (with cavity). Therefore, the initially small cavities become larger and deeper much rapidly. Additionally, cavities in baby teeth can reach the nerve(s) inside the teeth much faster than it could reach in an adult tooth. This is because baby teeth are thinner than adult teeth. Therefore, children with cavities subsequently develop pain and the cavities/ tooth can even get infected. Scientific evidences have shown that children with cavities in the baby teeth have difficulty in eating some foods, drinking hot or cold beverages, have trouble in sleeping, and miss their school. As a long-term consequence, children with cavities in their baby teeth have higher risk to develop cavities in their adult teeth, subsequently.
Healthy baby teeth are important for healthy adult teeth Baby teeth that are broken down due to large cavities or those that develop infections are often removed (extracted). This will have a negative effect on the eruption and alignment of the adult teeth, such as “non-eruption” (the adult teeth fail to push through and stays inside the gums) or “crowding” in the jaw. These consequences are not only difficult but also expensive to treat.
In conclusion, though baby teeth are temporary, they should be looked after very well. Remember, “Kid’s teeth are not kids play”.
BDS (India), MDS (HK) PhD
(HK), MPaed Dent RCSEd,
Clinical Assistant Professor
Faculty of Dentistry,
The University of Hong Kong