If you ever took a fall or had a cavity as a child, you're probably thankful that we get two sets of teeth. Our primary dentition can certainly seem like a second chance to recover from youthful mishaps. You may be wondering why, if adult teeth will eventually take their place, do we perform restorative dental procedures on kids teeth? Crowns, fillings and even braces may seem excessive when you could simply "extract and wait" for the adult teeth to come in. On the contrary, primary teeth serve a number of important roles in establishing a healthy adult dentitition.
One of the most basic goals of primary teeth is to hold space for the permanent teeth. They create markers for where the adult teeth need to erupt and keep adjacent teeth from crowding into the open spaces. Once you lose a primary tooth, the teeth on either side can start to drift into its space, blocking the adult tooth from eruption. Many times, children who lose a primary tooth prematurely will receive a space maintainer- a cemented retainer that keeps two teeth from coming closer together.
Primary teeth also play an important role in the development of the jawbones. This is the guiding principle behind interceptive orthodontics, where braces and orthodontic appliances are placed on baby teeth. By ensuring these teeth are in ideal locations, an orthodontist can guide the development of the jaws and palate while lessening the need for future adjustment.
Beyond the developmental importance of primary teeth, they are critical in psychological and social factors as well. Missing multiple anterior teeth can be embarrassing or humiliating, particularly when children are not at the appropriate age of tooth loss. Moreover, the posterior teeth are important in chewing and processing food. Without the ability to chew, we miss out on important nutrients in our diet. Molars allow us to break down food, increase surface area and ultimately facilitate healthy digestion.
In short, the primary teeth are an incredibly important part of childhood development. With this in mind, dentists do all they can to maintain these teeth through their healthy lifespans. If you want to know more about childhood dentition, the importance of brushing and flossing or dental development, please give our office a call!