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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 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, 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 or toothbrush after meals.

If you have questions or concerns about primary teeth, please contact our office.


Read what people are saying about us.

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After many years of being self-conscious about my smile due to an overbite and overlapping teeth, I decided to have a consult about having braces (preferably Invisalign). Due to all the correction needed, wire braces were my only option. After 5 years of various correction procedures I am now proud of my smile. Dr. Jeff and the staff were always prompt and very encouraging during each visit.

~Sandy V.S.

I had an appointment this morning for a crown prep. I was seated a few minutes before my actual appointment time. I was seen immediately by the assistant who prepped me for my local anesthetic. The anesthetic was given gently and painlessly. When I was thoroughly numb the procedure was started and finished in a shorter time than I had thought it might be. I was happy with all the services I received. Everyone from office staff to those assisting and performing the services were courteous and efficient. Dr. Dahm was his usual friendly professional self. I would recommend this dental practice to anyone needing dental care.

~Sue S. (October 2016)

I know, through my own work experience, that working with the public can be trying at times, and sometimes it is difficult not to fall into a "negative" mode, which really does none of us any good. I am not sure whether a "negative" atmosphere shows its face when dealing with people, as much as a "positive" atmosphere does, or not. I am inclined to think not, but anyway, I would like to say that I am proud of everyone in your office, for creating and keeping that "positive" atmosphere, for all of us patients, because it truly does make a difference in the way we feel while we are there, and when we leave the office. I don't ever remember giggling several times during a dentist appointment, but couldn't help myself yesterday morning, as Dr. Dahm moved through the office, greeting, reassuring, and caring for people. The girls who helped me through the x-rays, molds, and other necessary procedures were awesome, as well! "Good Job", "You're doing great", etc., while in a place where most people are a little uncomfortable, at best, is so nice to hear. And, when I was confused about just where in my mouth my filling would go, the girls were so kind in explaining that they really were going to work on the correct tooth. LOL! I am running on here, but I think too often in business, the main feedback that people get, is the negative stuff. I have always tried to counter that, by letting people know when I really do appreciate what they have done "for" me, instead of "to" me, and I will be the first to admit that trust does not always come easy for me - just the way I am. And, I feel that an establishment's "true colors" show in instances like I had yesterday, when I needed some reassurance that everything was okay. I am so appreciative of the way everyone handled that (sorry that I took up precious time), but now I know, that if/when I truly do need help, it will be there, and given in a kind and understanding manner. That means a LOT to me! So, in closing, in the middle of the night, during my usual "awake" time, I just kept thinking WOW! I just don't know of a better way to express my feelings! And, of course, THANK YOU to everyone in that office, because it takes every person in an environment like that to maintain a caring and positive atmosphere! I notice and I appreciate all of it, and I would recommend anyone I know to become a patient there!

Pam B.

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