The teeth begin to appear when a child is six or seven months old, and at two and a half years it should have all twenty temporary teeth. When the child reaches the age of six, the permanent teeth begin to appear. The teeth of small children should be cared for and kept clean. They should last until the time comes for the permanent teeth to take their place.
It will be observed that the time of shedding begins when a child is about six years of age and continues until the eleventh year. It will also be observed that the eruption of the first permanent incisors coincides with the eruption of the first permanent molars, taking place immediately after the shedding of the first deciduous teeth at the age of 6 or 7 years.
Parents who are not aware of this coincidence are likely to consider the first permanent molars to be deciduous. This misapprehension may lead them to neglect these molars in case of decay, thinking that they like the deciduous teeth will be replaced soon with new ones. Such a mistake will result in permanent loss, for if cavities are not filled, these molars will be lost with no hope of replacement. This will lead to malalignment of the remaining teeth on that side and will interfere with mastication (grinding) of food for the rest of the individual life.
The work of the teeth is to masticate food; that is, grind it into fine particles, mix it with saliva and so begin its digestion. The teeth also aid in speaking; for when they are lost certain syllables cannot be pronounced clearly. The use of the teeth is important and their condition has an important bearing upon health.