When Baby Teeth Don’t Fall Out
“My tooth is loose!” These words represent a huge milestone in your child’s life. Children get super excited when they lose their first teeth because they’re growing up and the tooth fairy will be coming! But what happens if your child isn’t losing baby teeth? Alabama Family Dentistry, serving patients from communities all over central Alabama, has some suggestions and advice on what to do if this happens to your child.
Out With the Old, In With the New
A child has 20 baby teeth which typically come in by age 3. They usually fall out in the order in which they came in. Usually children start losing “baby” teeth between ages 4 and 7 depending on when the first teeth erupted. The lower center teeth are lost first, followed by the top center pair.
Sometimes a tooth falls out too early because of an accident or dental disease. If your child starts losing teeth before the age of 4, you should visit your nearest location to rule out dental disease or other issues. It is possible that some children don’t lose start losing their teeth until age 7 or 8, although we recommend scheduling an exam and X-rays to make sure this is normal for your child.
Why Don’t Teeth Fall Out Sometimes?
We see it all the time, a child comes into one of our offices with permanent teeth coming in behind their baby teeth, commonly known as “shark” teeth. This is most common with the two lower front teeth around age 6 and upper back molars around age 11. It is not an emergency, but does need to be addressed. Usually permanent teeth slowly dissolve the baby tooth’s root loosening it. Eventually it becomes so loose that it falls out and then the permanent tooth can descend normally. In the “shark” tooth case, the permanent tooth doesn’t have enough room to grow in the gums and bone and may develop behind the baby tooth instead. This is a case of taking the path of least resistance, hence the pressure on the baby tooth does not occur.
When children have “shark” teeth your Alabama Family Dentist needs to remove the baby tooth so the permanent tooth can move up into the correct position. Teeth often come in pairs, so if one of the pairs doesn’t come in correctly, then it is more than likely the other one won’t either. Most kids do well with this procedure, plus they get to put two baby teeth under the pillow for the tooth fairy!
There are many reasons why children do not get their adult teeth. First, it is possible that they lost their baby tooth too early and the permanent tooth is not ready to come in yet. Also, the permanent adult tooth might not have enough room to come in between the teeth that are already there, so the adult tooth did not form.
There are many different treatment methods depending on the reason why there is not permanent tooth in place of the baby tooth. If the permanent tooth was not ready to come in yet, one of our dentists at Alabama Family Dentistry will insert a custom-fit plastic placeholder called a spacer until the adult tooth is ready to emerge. This prevents other teeth from shifting and the tooth ending up without enough room to grow in. In the event the adult tooth does not have room to emerge, a referral to an orthodontist may be necessary in order to move the teeth to make room so an adult tooth can descend.
If an adult tooth failed to form, there are a few possible options for treatment. If it is simply one or two teeth, then the child will keep the baby tooth as long as possible. If the baby tooth is taken care of properly, it can be maintained through adulthood and sometimes for life. If the baby tooth is lost or needs to be removed due to decay or damage, then other steps will be taken to replace the baby tooth. If your child is missing more than one or two adult teeth, then it is recommended you should consult your pediatrician because this could condition could be related to a developmental issue.
Alabama Family Dentistry suggests that you start bring your children in for preventative care visits twice a year starting at age 2. This includes a teeth cleaning with fluoride and may include application of dental sealants. Also, it is critical to explain to your children the importance of cleaning their teeth and flossing to avoid getting cavities. Once your child reaches 6 months or starts teething make sure to visit one of our four Alabama Family Dentistry’s convenient locations in Birmingham, Gardendale, Warrior, and Sumiton. We are here to help your child have a lifetime of healthy teeth!