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How important are baby teeth?

Parents often don't think primary or baby teeth are important since they are lost anyway. Nothing could be further from the truth. Primary teeth need the same care as permanent ones, according to Alliant Health System, Louisville, Ky.

To begin with, they are necessary for chewing the healthful and nutritious foods so important to a youngster's physical growth. Decayed or infected teeth easily can lead to troubles with chewing.

Baby teeth contribute to good appearance, furnishing those structures necessary for facial development, good diction, and expression. A pleasing outward appearance is marred by unattractive teeth, and self-esteem can be affected.

Finally, primary teeth preserve spaces in the mouth for the eventual appearance of the child's permanent ones. This is most important since neglect in this area can result in serious misalignment. When a primary tooth is lost before a permanent one is ready to appear, the adjoining teeth may tilt toward the space. This may cause irregularities in the position of the permanent teeth that will have to be corrected by orthodontic treatment. Also, teeth in their proper position are easier to keep clean.

To see that your child receives the best possible care, take him or her to a children's or family dentist around the youngster's first birthday. The dentist usually will clean and check the teeth and may take X-rays to detect any hidden problems, as well as show how to care for your offspring's teeth through brushing, flossing, fluoride use, and adequate diet. Follow your dentist's advice and teach your child to take good care of his or her teeth. Establishing early habits of good oral hygiene will help to maintain a healthy mouth throughout adult life.
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Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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