Sometimes, as parents, we ask ourselves, “Why fix those baby teeth, they’re going to fall out anyway, right?” Well…technically that’s true. With time, the baby teeth should fall out…if there are permanent teeth growing underneath. This statement brings up the two main points that every parent needs to consider, the timing of the baby teeth coming out, and whether or not there are permanent teeth in place to come in.
I remember going to the dentist two times when I was a child. Once for a check-up and it was a good experience getting my teeth cleaned and watching cartoons on the TV. The next time was a few years later when I had a toothache, and it was a bad experience getting the tooth pulled and seeing the blood! Which experience do you think affected me the most? We are of the opinion that if we can see children early before they have obvious problems, we can almost always give them a positive start to their dental experience. If we see them regularly, we can catch developing problems when they are small, and give them a much more positive experience with having actual dental work done.
Another point to consider is that the primary (baby) teeth do not normally start coming out until the age of 6-7 years, and will continue until around 12-14 years old. On the other hand, bacteria begins working on the teeth from the moment that they begin to erupt into the mouth. Many children develop cavities by the time they are 3-4 years old.
One of my most memorable cases is a little boy who was 2 ½ years old who literally had a mouth full of cavities. Unfortunately for him, most of the teeth could not even be restored and had to be extracted. Since he was 4-5 years away from any permanent teeth coming in, he had to try and live a long time as a literal “dental cripple”…and he was only 2 ½! Restoring the teeth early helps save the child from unnecessary pain and infection, and allows for proper chewing function. Premature loss of baby teeth can also lead to orthodontic complications, causing the need for more complex orthodontic treatment. On the other hand, if in an older child, it appears that a tooth may come out before the decay reaches the nerve, we are comfortable watching it instead of filling it if you wish. If it starts to bother the child before it comes out, we can simply remove the tooth.
One last area to be aware of is that there are times when permanent teeth do not develop. I have seen many cases over the years where proper care of baby teeth has allowed them to remain healthy and functional for many years. If it is healthy, there is no need to remove a baby tooth and incur the costs of stabilizing the bite by restoring the area.
All things considered, it makes a lot of sense to keep the baby teeth healthy. Not only does it make sense, but also saves “cents” to restore them early!