Baby teeth, deciduous teeth, primary teeth–call them what you may, serve many purposes and are an important part of your child’s health. So, why do they fall out and how important are they? Here are some fun facts to know about your child’s teeth!
When your child is born, the baby teeth are already in the bones of the jaws. Did you know that the teeth begin to form at just six weeks of development? At 3-4 months in utero, the enamel begins to form. However, the teeth just hang out in the jaw until your baby is about 6 months old. Then, the first teeth emerge from the gums in everyone’s favorite pastime–teething!
Basically, the teeth erupt into the mouth in a specific sequence, then they are lost in the same sequence. The general pattern is that they come in and are lost in pairs, starting with the lower front two teeth and ending with the upper last molars. So the primary molars aren’t lost until 12 years of age in some kids! See Chart
If Baby Teeth are Going to Fall Out, Why Treat Them?
Baby teeth are smaller than permanent teeth with much shorter roots. As the jaw develops and grows, the teeth become too small to handle the workload. Luckily, there are replacements waiting to take over. Until the permanent teeth erupt, however, the primary teeth serve important functions.
- Placeholders for permanent teeth
- If the baby tooth is lost early, the other teeth will shift and can block the permanent teeth from erupting into the mouth creating orthodontic problems.
- Create a pathway for the permanent teeth
- The primary teeth hold the place for the permanent teeth and the permanent teeth erupt into the roots of the primary teeth, guiding them into place.
- Establish face shape
- Aid in proper speech
Another incredibly important reason to treat primary teeth is that decay is contagious! If the primary teeth have decay, the permanent teeth are more likely to get decay.
Did you Know . . .
- There are only 20 primary teeth but 32 permanent teeth (including wisdom teeth). Children don’t have premolars! The permanent molars come in behind the baby molars at about age 6. Later, the baby molars will be lost and replaced with premolars!
- Teeth fall out and erupt in pairs! This is a good tip to know. If your child has lost one tooth on one side, the same tooth on the other side should be lost within a month or so.
- Sometimes permanent teeth don’t develop and the primary tooth won’t be lost. This is called ankylosis.
- Girls usually get and lose their teeth before boys.
- The enamel of primary teeth is thinner than the enamel of permanent teeth. Baby teeth are only meant to last for around 12 years.
- Primary teeth are whiter and smaller than permanent teeth.
- Tooth pulp contains stem cells that can be banked!
Keeping Baby Teeth Healthy
Now that you can see all of the things baby teeth do, what are the best ways to keep them healthy?
- Have your child’s first dental visit by their first birthday!
- Start cleaning your baby’s teeth the moment they appear in the mouth! Remember, as soon as a tooth erupts, bacteria will adhere to it.
- Nothing but water at bedtime once the teeth erupt!
- Establish a brushing and flossing routine as early as possible! Your hygienist is a great source of helpful tips!