It's an exciting event when your baby's first tooth appears! By the time a child is 3 years old, about 20 teeth-called primary teeth-will be in place. Keeping these teeth healthy is imperative, as they pave the way for speech development, the ability to chew, and as placeholders for permanent teeth.
Here is a photo of the normal schedule for the eruption of baby teeth:
The Importance of Baby Teeth
Many parents discount the importance of baby teeth, since they start falling out by the time the child is 6 or 7 years old. The truth is, baby teeth are every bit as important as permanent teeth, even though they are short-lived. Children who experience decay in baby teeth are subject to infection, fillings or even extraction of the decayed baby teeth.
The most important role of each baby tooth, however, is to hold a place for the permanent tooth that will replace it. By the time a permanent tooth is ready to emerge, the baby tooth's roots dissolve, allowing the baby tooth to fall out. A few weeks later, the permanent tooth emerges. However, if a child loses a baby tooth through decay or trauma, the incoming permanent tooth may not line up correctly. Adjoining teeth may take up the extra space, resulting in a line of crooked teeth.
In cases of premature loss of a baby tooth, Dr. Kherani, our Manhattan pediatric dentist, will insert a space maintainer to take the place of the missing baby tooth until the permanent tooth is ready to come through.