Some dental problems begin very early in life. One concern is baby bottle tooth decay (now called early childhood caries), which is a serious condition partly caused by a child using a bottle before bedtime (with milk or juice.) Another problem is gum disease. About 40% of children 2-3 years old have at least mild inflammation of the gum tissues. Oral habits (such as thumb-sucking) should also be addressed. The earlier the dental visit, the better the chances of preventing such problems.
Primary teeth are important because they help with proper chewing and eating, help in speech development, and allow the permanent teeth to grow and develop properly. A child who can chew easily, speak clearly and smile confidently is a happier child. Healthy primary teeth allow normal development of the jaw bones and muscles. They also save space for the permanent teeth by guiding them into position. If a baby tooth is lost too soon, permanent teeth may come in crooked. Decayed baby teeth can also cause pain and infection, which can damage the permanent teeth.
Primary teeth fall out at different times. The first couple of teeth to become lost are generally the front lower two teeth. These incisors fall out at approximately 6 years of age, but longer times are completely normal. The next teeth to fall out include the upper front teeth about 1 year later, followed by the remaining incisors and canines over the next couple of years. The molars began to exfoliate at approximately age 10-11. The remaining primary molars continue to fall out until age 14. Remember that because all children are different, the exact age for tooth exfoliation will vary, and if you are concerned about your child’s teeth feel free to bring them in for an examination.