The first set of teeth to erupt in the child’s mouth are called primary teeth, deciduous teeth, or milk teeth. These teeth have a relatively short life span. They start to erupt at around six months of age and begin to fall out when a child is about six years old.
When should a child’s milk teeth be extracted?
Tooth decay is quite common in children due to poor oral hygiene, bad eating habits, and a parental lack of awareness about proper care. Tooth decay can progress much faster in milk teeth than it can in permanent teeth and go from a small area of decay to most of the tooth being affected in a matter of months.
If a milk tooth becomes decayed beyond the point when it can be saved, the dentist has no option but to extract it.
In some cases, a child may not be willing to undergo lengthy treatment procedures to try and save the tooth, the parents may not be able to afford it, or the treatment provided to try and save the tooth may have failed. Milk teeth are extracted in all of the above cases as well.
The age of the child also decides whether extracting a child’s milk tooth is a good option or not. If the affected tooth is going to be in the mouth for two years or more, then every effort should be made to save it — milk teeth serve important functions in the mouth and removing them too early can affect the permanent teeth as well.
If, however, the milk tooth is shaking and is going to fall out pretty soon or the permanent tooth is just about to erupt then it can be extracted without any worries whatsoever. There are also cases where the milk tooth remains inside the mouth far beyond the expected time and starts to affect the path of eruption of the permanent teeth. In such cases, extraction of the milk teeth is also recommended.
Can extracting a child’s milk teeth affect the permanent teeth?
As we mentioned earlier, the effect that extraction of a milk tooth has a lot to do with the timing of the extraction. Early extraction of one or more milk teeth can have serious and lasting consequences in the permanent set of teeth as well. Extraction of milk teeth just a few months before they would have fallen out anyway is not going to affect the permanent teeth.
Let’s see what happens if milk teeth are extracted too early.
One of the main functions of the milk teeth is to keep adequate space in the mouth for the permanent teeth that will replace them. By extracting some milk teeth early, the adjacent milk teeth can drift into the empty spaces and interfere in the path of eruption for the permanent teeth. This loss of space can increase the risk of crowding when the permanent teeth erupt.
The roots of the milk teeth are the most important marker for permanent teeth to erupt. The chances of the permanent teeth erupting into their right position are much higher when they have a milk tooth acting as a guide. In severe cases, certain permanent teeth may not find any space to erupt at all and become stuck inside the jaw bone.
There are also some immediate concerns about the removal of multiple milk teeth. The child is going to use these teeth to chew and not being able to break down food comfortably is going to affect the nutrition and digestion in the body.
The development of the speech is also dependent on having a full set of teeth. Removing a number of milk teeth early in life can affect speech patterns which can be very difficult to correct later on.
Parents should not ideally need to get their children’s milk teeth extracted. They are supposed to fall out on their own in the normal scheme of things. If there is a problem in the milk teeth then make every effort to save the milk teeth. If they must be removed, then the use of space maintainers is recommended when the permanent tooth eruption is still some time away.