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When A Child's Baby Tooth Refuses To Leave

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Baby teeth, deciduous teeth, primary teeth, or whatever you choose to call them—your child's first set of teeth won't be their last. Or will they? The majority of people lose their primary teeth when their secondary (adult) teeth are ready to emerge. Even though it's not statistically common, it's not a total rarity for primary teeth to be retained into adulthood. What should you do if this happens to your child? 

A Certain Number

If your child retains their baby teeth, they will only likely retain a certain number of them. In fact, it could just be a single, solitary baby tooth that's retained. Teeth are anchored by their roots, and it's the expansion and eruption of an adult tooth that dissolves the roots holding a baby tooth in place. The baby tooth then loosens and detaches.

Replacement Adult Tooth

Without the process that breaks down the root system of a baby tooth, that tooth will stay where it is. The replacement adult tooth has failed to develop properly, or at all. There are multiple reasons for this, some of which are unavoidable. It may be a case of genetics. Did you or your partner, or any parents or grandparents face a similar issue in childhood? Certain dental infections can also disrupt the formation of an adult tooth. In many respects, the reasons are immaterial, since such a situation isn't reversible. 

Adult Dentition

You may only be aware of your child retaining baby teeth when it actually happens. Adult dentition (the growth and eruption of secondary teeth) usually begins by the age of six. If selected teeth are retained beyond the rough timetable for replacement, your child might be holding onto some of their baby teeth. Your children's dentist may also give you some forewarning of the situation, such as if an X-ray notes the absence of developing adult teeth, or a developmental issue with the tooth.

Precautions and Solutions

But now to the reassuring part of the problem. The retention of baby teeth into adulthood isn't clinically significant. Some additional precautions are needed. The tooth's root will not be as deep (and secure) as an adult tooth. If the tooth loosens under daily use, it can be replaced with a dental implant (an artificial titanium tooth root with a false porcelain tooth). The tooth's outer layer of enamel may be thinner than a comparable adult tooth. A retained baby tooth might need to be fitted with a dental crown to reinforce its surface. A dental crown can also increase the tooth's size if it proves to be conspicuously smaller than its full-size neighbors.

The failure to develop an adult tooth may sound like a dental catastrophe, but the consequences typically aren't serious. And fortunately, your family dentist has a range of options for overcoming any consequences.

Contact a local children's dentist to learn more.