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Why Are Primary Teeth Important?

Primary teeth, also known as “baby teeth” or “deciduous teeth,” begin to develop beneath the gums during the second trimester of pregnancy.  Teeth begin to emerge above the gums approximately six months to one year after birth.  Typically, preschool children have a complete set of 20 baby teeth – including four molars on each arch.

One of the most common misconceptions about primary teeth is that they are irrelevant to the child’s future oral health.  However, their importance is emphasized by the American Dental Association (ADA), which urges parents to schedule a “baby checkup” with a pediatric dentist within six months of the first tooth emerges.

What are the functions of primary teeth?

Primary teeth can be painful to acquire.  To soothe tender gums, biting on chewing rings, wet gauze pads, and clean fingers can be helpful.  Though most three-year-old children have a complete set of primary teeth, eruption happens gradually – usually starting at the front of the mouth.

The major functions of primary teeth are described below:

Speech production and development – Learning to speak clearly is crucial for cognitive, social, and emotional development.  The proper positioning of primary teeth facilitates correct syllable pronunciation and prevents the tongue from straying during speech formation.

Eating and nutrition – Children with malformed or severely decayed primary teeth are more likely to experience dietary deficiencies, malnourishment, and to be underweight.  Proper chewing motions are acquired over time and with extensive practice.  Healthy primary teeth promote good chewing habits and facilitate nutritious eating.

Self-confidence – Even very young children can be quick to point out ugly teeth and crooked smiles.  Taking good care of primary teeth can make social interactions more pleasant, reduce the risk of bad breath, and promote confident smiles and positive social interactions.

Straighter smiles – One of the major functions of primary teeth is to hold an appropriate amount of space for developing adult teeth.  In addition, these spacers facilitate the proper alignment of adult teeth and also promote jaw development.  Left untreated, missing primary teeth cause the remaining teeth to “shift” and fill spaces improperly.  For this reason, pediatric dentists often recommend space-maintaining devices.

Excellent oral health – Badly decayed primary teeth can promote the onset of childhood periodontal disease.  As a result of this condition, oral bacteria invade and erode gums, ligaments, and eventually bone.  If left untreated, primary teeth can drop out completely – causing health and spacing problems for emerging permanent teeth.  To avoid periodontal disease, children should practice an adult-guided oral care routine each day, and infant gums should be rubbed gently with a clean, damp cloth after meals.

If you have questions or concerns about primary teeth, please contact your pediatric dentist.

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I've been to many dentists over the years, but nothing prepared me for the most amazing experiences I've had with Doc Wood and his team of experts. Warm, kind, anxiety free and most of all... actually enjoyable.

No one enjoys going to the Dentist, I thought. But I can now say with certainty that I do, and look forward to seeing them again which is why I come all the way from Los Angeles to Corvallis. An incredible experience with incredible people. THANKS, DOC! YOU'RE THE BEST! If only all Dentists could be like you... we'd all have amazing teeth!

Fireball T.L.

Best dental office ever. Skilled professionals with a gentle touch, always concerned with my comfort level, and excellent at what they do. Also, state of the art equipment creates your crowns while you wait. No more temporary crowns and multiple visits. Awesome!

Connie E.

I actually travel across 2 states to visit Dr Wood at his office. His gentle touch is worth the drive. Not to mention his staff is always so courteous and kind, but not nosey. I can't believe how nice it is to not have to fear going to the dentist anymore. Also he is the best at giving shots. Hardly feel them. I actually enjoy going to the dentist. It's like being with family! That's the only way to say it. Plus he really works well with my insurance. And he knows what he is doing! And has some really great equipment. I needed a new tooth and they did everything in house. No repeat visit, just a quick change. My smile has never looked better. Thanks Dr Wood!!!! :)

Jeremy S.

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