A generation ago many of our parents felt there was no need to care for "baby" teeth because they "fall out anyway." Today, being better informed, we realize the importance of the "baby" or primary teeth. The health and preservation of the primary teeth is in fact not only important but necessary. They are vital for:
The shedding of the primary teeth usually takes place from ages 6-13. By age nine most of the front teeth have been lost and replaced by permanent teeth. Beginning around age ten the primary molars loosen, and by age thirteen they too will have been replaced. At age six the first permanent molar erupts just behind the last primary molar. Because its emergence is not associated with the shedding of teeth, it is often mistaken for a primary tooth and sometimes neglected.
When the process of normal shedding does not occur naturally children and parents both can suffer. A decayed primary tooth which is neglected will eventually cause discomfort. This discomfort can:
A decayed primary tooth which is neglected may become infected. This infection can:
Primary teeth should be highly valued.
Sealants should be used as part of a child's total preventive dental care. Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings which are applied to the chewing surfaces of the molars (back teeth). Most tooth decay in children and teens occurs in these surfaces. Sealants cover the chewing surfaces to prevent decay. Sometimes applying sealants does not require drilling or removing tooth structure. It is an easy three-step process: The tooth is cleaned. A special conditioning gel is rubbed gently on the tooth and is washed off. Finally, the sealant is painted on the tooth and cured with a special light. One sealant application can last for as long as 5 to 10 years. Sealants should be checked regularly, and reapplied if they are no longer in place.
Children and adults at high risk of dental decay may benefit from using additional fluoride products, including dietary supplements (for children who do not have adequate levels of fluoride in their drinking water), mouth rinses, and professionally applied gels and varnishes.