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A neighbor of mine pulled me aside last week to ask a question about her 6-year-old son’s recent dental appointment. He had several cavities diagnosed on his baby teeth. She said to me. “Why do we have to fix these? They are only baby teeth.” Well that’s a comment I have heard many times over the years and there is a huge benefit to keeping baby teeth and keeping them healthy as long as possible.

Baby teeth serve several functions. In addition to chewing food, they are space-holders for the permanent teeth that will take their place. If they are lost prematurely, the development of the jaw can change and the space they are holding for the permanent teeth can be altered. The adult teeth are more likely to erupt with incorrect alignment and there is more of a need for orthodontics in the future.

It is important to keep the baby teeth healthy as well. Permanent teeth are erupting directly underneath the roots of the baby teeth, and an infection of the baby teeth from untreated cavities can affect the permanent teeth. In fact, the recommended treatment for badly infected baby teeth is extraction in order to protect the adult teeth from damage. The bacteria that cause cavities, once present in the mouth, will increase the risk of cavities developing in the other teeth. Therefore, it is important to treat cavities on baby teeth right away to prevent these complications.

Lastly, baby teeth are important for correct speech development and for chewing. Good nutrition is so important for growing children. It is important for children to have well-functioning teeth that feel good and look good as well. There are so many reasons to keep baby teeth as healthy as all the other teeth. But don’t just take my word for it. Be sure to discuss with your dentist at your child’s next appointment. Happy Chewing!