From chewing food to making that smile attract, those white little teeth inside your mouth do serve a lot of purpose. People often tend to ignore the importance of their teeth and do not ponder much upon their importance till the time some inconvenience happens that leads to an unbearable pain. Taking care of dental hygiene via brushing, flossing and gargling should be introduced to children from quite an early age. A lot of people wonder if it is really important to take off the milk teeth as they are eventually going to fall off and are not going to stay in there for long. It is high time that this misconception gets cleared that milk teeth are not of much use, because these temporary teeth in your child’s mouth can serve a lot of purpose. From smiling to chewing and a lot more, let us learn about the function and importance of milk teeth from Dr. Jamshed K Tavadia, Consultant Dentist, M.D.S Periodontics and Oral Implants, Masina Hospital, Mumbai.
What is the difference between milk teeth and permanent teeth?
There has been an ongoing debate about whether the milk teeth or deciduous teeth are important or not and how they are different from the permanent adult teeth. It is important to note that there are several parts of your teeth such as the roots, enamel, dentine, pulp and cementum. These parts generally vary from each other in a child’s milk teeth to that in an adult’s permanent ones. The enamel is the outer protective covering of the tooth that is generally thinner in a child’s tooth as compared to that in an adult’s. These milk teeth are quite smaller in size and are way whiter than the adult tooth.
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Apart from all this even the roots of both these teeth vary from each other as they are much smaller and shorter in the milk tooth as they are designed to fall out. These milk tooth usually become visible by the age of 6 months and are 20 in total that tend to fall of by the age of 6 years, As these milk teeth tend to fall, they are replaced by permanent set of teeth that are 32 in numbers are present in set of 16 in the upper jaw and 16 in the lower one.
Importance and function of milk teeth
Where milk teeth vary from the permanent adult teeth on different factors, it does not make them useless or not helpful but they have a very important role to play. With chewing being one of those crucial functions, it is important to know that that’s not all, there are various other important functions as well that your child’s milk teeth play a crucial role in and hence it is important to take proper care of them. Before going any further let us take a look at what Dr. Jamshed K Tavadia has to say about this “There are around 20 milk teeth in a child’s mouth that serve 4 primary functions. The first one being the most important function of all that is chewing. As it is not just the baby food that is given to a child after a certain age, but they also tend to eat raw fruits and vegetables such as apples and carrots that are healthy for them. These nutritious foods are important for the child’s health and overall development that are slightly harder in texture. Chewing is important as the child needs to eat everything by the age of three to get important nutrients. Secondly the chewing process needs to be gradual and children are not supposed to swallow their food directly hence teeth help them to physically grind the food that they are eating. Another major role that these milk teeth play is in the speech of a child. Due to the placement of front and back teeth, the tongue is placed in the proper position. Each time the tongue makes contact with the teeth, it helps in correcting the speech and pronunciation of certain words and letters. As the teeth block the air flow that is outside the mouth and hence there is no air passage and it results in improved speech. Not just this but these primary milk teeth also act as the placeholders for the succeeding permanent teeth. They act as space maintainers and ensure that they shed off at a particular time when the permanent tooth is ready to erupt. One of the most important things in today’s world, right from childhood, is appearance. As the little one’s are so conscious about the way they look. The parents may look at the teeth from a health point of view but for the little one’s appearance is all that matters. This also helps in boosting confidence and self esteem.”
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After getting all the information about milk teeth from the doctor, let us take a step ahead and look at the important functions that milk teeth have to play.
First things first, and hence as we all know about this primary function of teeth, chewing is an important part of the digestive system as well. As after a certain age children are introduced to solid food in order to provide them all the essential nutrients that are noy just important to keep them healthy but have a key role to play in the process of their growth and development as well. The process of chewing makes it easier to swallow the food and also makes the absorption of nutrients simpler. It also helps to prevent overeating which might result in obesity in the coming future. Chewing food provides it with more exposure to the saliva and less access to the bacteria lingering inside your intestines.
An important thing that you need to know is that the oral development of your child is responsible for the clarity in their speech. Any kind of problem with your child’s teeth at a young age can lead to speech related issues in the later age. It is not just your lips and tongue that control the speech, but teeth have an important role to play in this as well. These three combined help in controlling the air flow inside the mouth where teeth help to create that air passage.
There are various words which can not be pronounced without the help of your teeth as these sounds are produced when your tongue either touches the teeth aligned on the upper jaw or on the lower one. Issues such as teeth thursting, and misalignment of teeth can result in disrupted speech that would noy just be a childhood problem but will be carried on for life.
Milk teeth often work as a space maker for the permanent adult tooth that erupts after a certain age. These milk teeth help to hold up the space for the permanent one’s so that they get aligned properly and come into proper position. This process of spacemaking, helps in preventing the abnormal occlusion or malocclusion. It is important to take good care of your child’s milk teeth as premature removal or exfoliation of these milk teeth can lead to the eruption of permanent ones in the wrong place and disturb their alignment. This mispositioning and disturbed alignment of teeth can result in tooth decay, crooked teeth and facial Asymmetry.
In today’s world it is not just those fashion divas or adults that are concerned about their appearances and the way they look, but little ones are no less. Where these milk teeth make them look presentable and enhance their appearance during childhood, they also help in providing a proper shape to their face. These milk teeth have a very important role to play in the normal growth of jaw bone and providing a proper shape to them. These milk teeth help in proper facial development by helping in the growth of jaw bones and making space for the permanent teeth.
With inputs from Dr. Jamshed K Tavadia, Consultant Dentist, M.D.S Periodontics and Oral Implants, Masina Hospital, Mumbai.