Baby (or primary) teeth (also called deciduous teeth because they fall out, just like deciduous trees shed their leaves) aren’t going to be in the mouth for very long—so why should a parent worry about decay, crooked teeth, or a tooth lost in an accident? Why spend money on fillings or root canal work when the teeth are temporary anyway? And why worry about brushing and flossing the teeth of a two- or three-year old? Sure, there’s a point with permanent teeth, but baby teeth?
Well, there is a point, and not one, but many. Baby teeth, which start appearing somewhere between five and eight months, are the foundation for permanent teeth, which begin erupting around the age of six. They show permanent teeth where to come in, and they maintain space so there will be room for them. Untreated decay and premature loss of the baby teeth affect the health and the form of the second teeth—and could set the stage for future dental problems. Baby teeth have to be kept healthy, and if, for some reason, they haven’t been, the child should see a dentist, who can help restore health and function until the permanent teeth appear.
The state of the teeth can affect the overall health of the growing child as well. Baby teeth that hurt because of decay will mean an unhappy child, one who, perhaps, isn’t eating properly because of the pain, one who may be developing poor chewing habits because there’s something wrong with the way the teeth and mouth function.
Finally, we have to consider the child’s attitude toward dentists and the care of their teeth. If the first visit ever to a dentist is in an emergency, that child is possibly always going to associate dentists with fear and pain. It’s far better that their first experience with dentistry be a pleasant one, and the chances of problems in the future are reduced if they start with both good professional and at-hom care from an early age.