Have you been told a child’s baby teeth (sometimes referred to as milk teeth) are not important because they will eventually fall out? It’s not true. Baby teeth are just as important as permanent teeth for a number of reasons. Losing them too soon can lead to problems later on when the permanent teeth come in.

When the first tooth appears, which usually occurs around the age of 4 to 6 months, parents must begin a daily brushing plan to prevent decay. By the average age of 2, most children have a total of 20 baby teeth. As a child matures, with parent supervision, they can be taught proper brushing techniques to begin caring for their own teeth.

Between the ages of 7 and 12 years, the baby teeth fall out. They are replaced by the permanent teeth. An additional 12 teeth come in behind the baby teeth. The first permanent molar appears around the age of 6. All permanent teeth usually appear by the time a child is 14 years of age. The wisdom teeth arrive later in life, usually between the ages of 17 and 25.

Between the ages of 6 and 12, children have a combination of baby teeth and permanent teeth during what is referred to as the mixed dentition stage. This is a time when cavities may appear in some of the baby teeth. Parents are often falsely informed that these baby teeth are not important.

Decaying teeth cause problems for a number of reasons. Untreated tooth decay can lead to an abscess. This can be treated with a pulpectomy, which is a procedure to remove the pulp from the tooth and replace it with a medicated substance to sustain the tooth until it is ready to come out. Treatment usually takes one visit and is a better option than pulling the decayed tooth.

Missing teeth can lead to speech difficulties and poor muscle development that is necessary for proper chewing of food. Open gaps in the gums can cause the permanent teeth to erupt in the wrong positions, leading to improper bite and tooth alignment. This may eventually lead to corrective measures, such as braces, in the future. Preserving baby teeth is a better choice than dealing with more costly issues later in life.

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