Understanding the role of baby teeth for children

Very often throughout the day, parents will ask, “Why do baby teeth need to be fixed if they are just going to fall out anyway?”

  • Jan. 21, 2011 7:00 a.m.

Very often throughout the day, parents will ask, “Why do baby teeth need to be fixed if they are just going to fall out anyway?”

Great question, and one that a great many readers out there are nodding about, right now.

Primary teeth, baby teeth, milk teeth, practice teeth…however you name them, they have many functions and are integral to the health of our children.

The function of primary teeth are as follows:

• allow children to chew and eat properly

• hold space for permanent teeth to come into the arch in proper alignment

• allow for proper development of speech, and

• provide that fabulous smile that makes us adore them.

Over and above all of these functions is the need to prevent or treat infection and preserve the function of the primary dentition.

When primary teeth become infected by the bacteria that cause dental decay, and if the decay is allowed to progress, a complicated process begins.

Cavities begin as small areas of bacterial infection that progress through the hard outer enamel to the softer inner layer of dentin, finally to the nerve and blood supply, or “pulp” of the tooth.

This process continues if not treated by either prevention or a restoration, or dental filling. As the cavity approaches the pulp, often there is pain, especially with eating or drinking.

Once the cavity reaches the pulp, the infection can turn from a dental infection into a systemic, or body infection, which can lead to fever, swelling, and an overall feeling of being ill, often increasing in severity until treated.

Dental treatment involves addressing the cavity process at any of the various stages.

Dental restorations, or fillings, do not have a profound effect on teeth or how they work.

If, however, the cavity process is advanced at the time of treatment, one or several teeth will require removal.

Children will adapt to a loss of teeth in an amazing way that only kids can do.

Even with several missing teeth they are able to eat the same (or very close) array of food they are used to eating.

Occasionally, depending on several factors, the dentist may recommend a space maintainer be placed following an extraction of a molar, or back tooth.

The space maintainer allows the space once occupied by the primary tooth to remain for the permanent tooth that will one day erupt into it’s place.

Children may experience a change in speech, especially if the front teeth are removed.

There are, however, no permanent changes to speech or speech development following the removal of primary front teeth.

A very common parental concern regarding the removal of primary front teeth is esthetics.

Although esthetics are very important, the appearance of a smile with the front teeth affected so badly with decay that they require extraction is arguably less esthetic than a smile with the teeth not present.

Although a difficult discussion to have, the decision to remove teeth is only made if the benefits of completing the treatment outweigh the risk of not completing the treatment.

The bottom line—yes, the primary teeth do fall out in time, but during the time they are present, they can have a profound effect on children’s day-to-day health, as well as their overall health.

Your dental professional can help protect and maintain the baby teeth so that they do fall out, naturally.

Alan Milnes and Terry Farquhar are certified specialists in pediatric dentistry at 101-180 Cooper Rd.

Pedodocs@shaw.ca

www.okanagandentalcare

forkids.com

Just Posted

Kelowna’s definitive Christmas market list

We’ve prepared a list of every market in the Central Okanagan

Stuart Park outdoor rink to reopen for winter

The outdoor ice rink is scheduled to be open Dec. 1

Offensive Facebook post by Okanagan Conservative riding association sparks outrage

Post taken down after Conservative MP in neighbouring riding condemns it and demands removal

Creekside Theatre hosts Canadian comedian, Phil Callaway

The Lake Country based theatre will host the fundraiser Nov. 20

Kelowna Art Gallery to show private collection publicly for first time

The Rossi Collection: A circle of Friends can now be seen until January

VIDEO: People with diabetes meet their alert dogs

A diabetic alert dog is trained to detect low blood sugar in people who have Type 1 diabetes

China says butt out; Canada calls for release of “arbitrarily” detained Muslims

A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman accused Canada’s envoy of going beyond their diplomatic roles

Dead Saskatoon tattoo artist’s skin removed and preserved

The skin was removed in honour of the well known artist’s work

Lower Mainland couple missing in Thompson-Okanagan area

Barriere RCMP received a missing persons report for two senior overdue travellers

Human remains found in South Okanagan vehicle fire

RCMP said the investigation to this point indicates the fire was accidental and not suspicious

B.C. Realtor suspended after helping intern forge note about sick grandma

Vancouver real estate agent Jaideep Singh Puri has to pay fine, take ethics course

Okanagan trampoline gymnasts impress at World Age Group finals in Russia

Kelowna’s Jordyn Yendley finished fifth, Vernon’s Travis Towers 14th in respective age groups

Judge rules against ALC on rural B.C. subdivision

The ALC can’t change the definition of an acre, the judge ruled.

John Horgan shrugs off low turnout, change to referendum option

‘No’ proportional representation group says voting should be extended

Most Read