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Dr.ST Tiew Profile pictureTitle-will-the-dentist-extract-wrong-tooth

Article written by Dr. Tiew Soon Tat


Will dentist extract the wrong tooth?

Children normally shed their baby teeth at the age of 6 to 12. At the same time,permanent teeth will be emerging, forming a mixed dentition. How to differentiate baby tooth and permanent tooth? Generally, baby teeth are fairer and whiter, while permanent teeth are yellowish in colour. This is due to a higher calcium composition in enamel of permanent teeth compared to baby teeth, causing higher transparency, revealing the yellowish essence of permanent teeth.

Recently, a cute mum asked me:" Dr Tiew, how can you tell which of my child's tooth is either baby tooth or permanent tooth? He lost a tooth before but I could not remember which one. Is it possible that you may extract the wrong tooth?" I was surprised by this question because dentist should not make this mistake. Therefore a common sense to me may be unfamiliar to the parents. After reassuring the parent, she was relieved to let her child proceed with the treatment. This incident hadinspired me to write this article, so that parents could learn how to differentiate baby tooth and permanent tooth.


4 differences of baby tooth and permanent tooth

Children normally lose their baby tooth at the age of 6 to 12, at the same time permanent tooth emerges, forming a mixture of baby teeth and permanent teeth. How to differentiate baby tooth and permanent tooth? Below are some main aspects:

1) Generally, baby teeth appear to be fairer and whiter while permanent teeth will give a more yellowish hue. This is due to higher enamel's calcium composition in permanent teeth compared to baby teeth, resulting higher transparency, revealing the yellowish essence of permanent teeth.

2) The crown of baby tooth is smaller than permanent tooth. Generally, when we grow up, the size of maxilla and mandible will increase, leading to increasedcapacity of oral cavity.Therefore it is common for the crown of permanent tooth to be bigger.

3) The neck of baby tooth will be smaller and getting thinner compare to permanent tooth. Therefore the demarcation of crown and root is clearer in baby tooth.

4) Baby tooth gets attrited easily compared to permanent teeth in mixed dentition as they exist longer in this mixed dentition and generally permanent teeth have higher calcium concentration and harder enamel. Baby tooth also has larger pulp chamber, higher pulp horns and larger bifurcated roots.


Teeth aid in digestive system

After explaining the differences between baby tooth and permanent tooth, let's find out how each and every type of teeth help us to taste delicious food. Let's look at how we can classify them.
I believed everyone realizes that our teeth are a tool that will help us tear, crush and grind the food that we eat. Without proper chewing, unrefined food will cause indigestion, thus burdening the digestive system.
A research shown, a toothless person has higher risk of getting stomach cancer. Due to the difficulty in eating, a toothless person can only eat certain food. Depriving of certain vitamins and minerals would cause malnutrition. Therefore, food can only be easily digested and absorbed for body use if the food is chewed properly.


3 types of teeth and their functions

Each type of tooth has its own role in either baby tooth or permanent tooth. Normally they are classified into 3 groups:


Incisor helps to tear food into pieces. With the help of masticatory muscle, incisor uses its edge to tear the food into pieces. There are 4central incisorsand 4 lateral incisors. The 2 lowercentral incisors usually erupt first, quickly followed by the 2 uppercentral. Once these teeth have erupted, you can expect to see the teeth on either side of the central incisors coming through next, often 2 at a time. These are lateral incisors.


Canines are sharper with longer roots embedded in the jaw. Therefore, they are able to withstand higher force.There are four canines, 2at the top and 2 at the bottom.


When food is torn by incisors and canines, they are being transferred by the tongue to molar region for grinding. Molars have lots of pits and fissures that aid in grinding and resulting in good and effective digestion. The premolars and molars arecollectively known for grinding. We have eight premolars and 8 to 12 molars.

A set of baby teeth consists of 8 incisors, 4 canines and 8 molars while a set of permanent tooth has 8 incisors, 4 canines and 16 to 20 molars.
Hopefullythrough this article, parents now have a better idea of their children's teeth.


This article is written and contributed by Dr. Tiew Soon Tat

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