No, those aren't temporary teeth...

  • Published
  • By Capt. Daniel Lapidus
  • 71st Medical Operations Squadron Dental Clinic
Alright, maybe they're temporary in the sense that they are not supposed to be in a person's mouth forever, but primary teeth play a vital role in the development of a child. Primary teeth, also called baby teeth, are as important to a child as permanent teeth are to an adult.

The primary dentition allows children to eat, develop proper speaking habits, is vital to self confidence, and maintains room for adult teeth to come in.

The formation and eruption of baby teeth, the process of losing baby teeth and problems that can arise if proper care isn't taken are important things to know.

Baby teeth start to form when the developing child is only six weeks along. For this reason, and many others, it is important to seek care early on if it is suspected a woman could be pregnant. Parents can expect their child's first tooth to erupt around six months of age; however, the first tooth could present itself as late as their first birthday. In some rare instances it can be present at birth.

It is important to have a child see the dentist starting at six months of age, earlier if a tooth has already erupted, so they get used to the atmosphere and can receive good preventative maintenance. All primary teeth should be erupted by age three. By this age, children should have 20 teeth, and need these to last for five to 10 years until adult teeth are ready to replace them.

As a child grows, so do their adult teeth. The first adult teeth are usually the 6-year molars, followed very closely by the lower front teeth.

The process that makes this happen is the adult tooth pushes on the baby tooth causing the root to break down and the crown of the tooth to become very loose, eventually being taken out or falling out. From losing the first baby tooth to the last takes almost six years.

Sometimes, a permanent tooth does not develop or it is out of alignment and does not come in. This means a child could be stuck with a baby tooth for a long time, even their entire life.

All too often, baby teeth are not taken care of because they are deemed unimportant. The 71st Medical Operations Squadron Dental Clinic emphasizes how far from the truth that thought is because not taking care of a child's teeth can lead to a life of problems.

Severe decay, referred to as baby bottle caries, is the result of parents giving their children sugary drinks without cleaning their teeth afterwards. This can lead to tooth abscesses, lots of cavities, extracted teeth and other problems often so extensive that the child needs to be put under general anesthesia to have work done.

Even minor tooth problems for a child can have negative effects. A couple of cavities or needing a tooth taken out can result in the loss of space for adult teeth, leading to severe aesthetic and functional problems, the development of bad breath or an embarrassing smile that can inhibit good social development and instill a dental phobia.

It isn't hard to care for a child's teeth. With minimal, yet consistent, effort a parent can afford their child good hygiene and increase their odds of healthy development. Tune in to the Vance public Web site or the Scoop for an article on hints on how best to take care of a child's oral health and get some information on United Concordia Dental Insurance for the family of an active duty servicemember.