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Dr. Erin shares 5 key differences

What makes a baby tooth different than a permanent tooth?  Many people assume that other than the size difference, teeth are all the same.  Baby teeth are radically different from permanent teeth, however, which means they need to be treated differently as well.  


Here are the top 5 major differences between baby teeth and permanent teeth:

1.       Baby teeth have much thinner enamel than permanent teeth (enamel is the hard white surface on the tooth), which makes it easier for a cavity to spread, and spread quickly.  Further complicating things, the enamel on the side of the tooth is usually razor thin, which can make bonding white fillings difficult when the enamel has been lost due to decay or fracture.

2.      Baby teeth are softer than permanent teeth, which makes them especially susceptible to acid found in liquids such as soda, juice and flavored waters.  Repeated, frequent exposure, even to watered-down-juices results in soft enamel that is more likely to break down and develop cavities.  Softer enamel also means that there will be more visible wear or flat surfaces seen on children who grind their teeth.

3.      Baby teeth are whiter than permanent teeth!  This is especially noticeable when permanent teeth begin to erupt next to baby teeth.  Rest assured, the color of permanent teeth is supposed to be a bit more yellow and the color will be less noticeable once all of the baby teeth have been lost.

4.      Baby teeth have very large nerves and nerve canals called pulp chambers, relative to the size of the tooth.  This means that even small cavities can affect the nerve, leading to nerve inflammation or infection.  Trauma such as an impact to a baby tooth can also lead to nerve inflammation and eventual nerve death more often than in permanent teeth.

5.      Baby teeth in the back of the mouth are pressed next to each other like two cubes that touch.  Permanent teeth, however, are more rounded.  Therefore their point of contact with the neighboring tooth is much smaller.