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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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Testimonials

Dr. Peters has been my dentist since I was 15 years old and his father was my orthodontist. Dr. Peters comes from a legacy of the most gifted professionals in his field. He is highly respected. To his credit, my daughter, two sons, mother, sister… My entire family trusts, only, Dr. Peters for all their dental needs. Hands-down, he is the best in his profession.
Although we still live in Fresno, we drive four hours away to see Dr. Peters. My family's teeth are exceptionally beautiful! We wouldn't trust no one else to touch our teeth! Jealous as we may be of those who live in beautiful San Diego, we are willing to share him with you. Enjoy! :)

Cynthia B.

I first went to Dr Peters for a tooth ache. He saw me on a Sunday! His office is open every Saturday and Sunday which is very convenient for me since I work during the week. His staff was very welcoming. It turned out all I needed was a filling which they did for me that day. He is a perfectionist and very gentle. I love my new dentist.

Dana N.

My mom, Maryam Bahriny, has been going to Dr. Peters for the past year or so. She was so impressed with the quality of care and the treatment she received from the dentist and his staff that she recommended them to the rest of the family and friends. We all feel blessed to have found this office. The beauty of this office is that their number one focus is addressing concerns and treating patients with the highest quality yet the least expensive way. We completely trust this office with our dental needs.

Sahar B.

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