This post is inspired by a Facebook Live Q&A series we did.

Recently I’ve had two parents to ask me “Why not just pull a baby tooth?”

Now, I have to say I don’t blame them.

We have come from a society from a thought process where we think that teeth are unnecessary. Like teeth are like, “Hey, and now you cut them off, you throw them away and they just kind of go back.”

But remember, teeth do not do that. Not even baby teeth, exactly.

So if you pull a baby tooth, the permanent adult tooth may not come right back in immediately after — and that’s important to remember.

For instance from a real life example: Let’s say on a four year old has four cavities. If we just pull those 4 teeth, remember that the adult teeth don’t just come in just because we have pulled the baby teeth. Adult teeth come in when they’re ready, just like anything else. That means that for awhile that child is going to be without 4 teeth. Depending on where they were and how close to each other they were, that could make eating and chewing difficult.

So the rule of thumb is that if a tooth is going to be there for longer than two or three years, we will usually try to fill that tooth.

Your child needs that baby tooth for three things:

  1. Your child needs those teeth to chew. Have you ever seen someone try to eat with no teeth? It’s just no fun. Well, the same holds true for kids.
  2. Baby teeth help with aesthetics. That means you can tell when you’re missing teeth, sometimes, even not just with dentist, but sometimes that’s the first thing you notice about a person are missing teeth.
  3. Teeth are crucial for speech. Remember that when your tongue touches your teeth, you can form the letter. Studies show that children can have difficulty in forming those words when they don’t have their teeth — and that can affect their verbal development if it happens right when they’re first learning to properly pronounce certain words.

Here’s a good general rule to bear in mind about when baby teeth come out: eight before eight, and 12 before 12.

That means that each child loses about eight teeth before they’re eight years old, and then another 12 before turning 12 years old. So they lose the front four incisors on the top of the bottom, and then even after then, they have 12 more teeth. The average child doesn’t lose all of their baby teeth until they’re about 12. (Some kids are 13 and 14 before they lose all their baby teeth.)

So when we’re talking about a six year old, it’s important that we fill cavities in those teeth if possible because sometimes that child may not have those teeth again for six years.

The other thing you should know about pulling baby teeth is the effect a missing tooth has on the teeth around it. When there isn’t a tooth in that spot anymore holding the space, it can cause the nearby teeth to shift. Consequently, if we were to pull all the baby teeth in one area then the other teeth wouldn’t have anything to butt against.

The only way we correct that kind of crowding is with braces. That’s a costly solution, especially knowing in some cases it could’ve been avoided.