Is your child wondering if his baby teeth will ever fall out? For a kindergartener, losing baby teeth is a very exciting event, a sign of becoming a “big kid.” When baby teeth aren’t getting loose and falling out, it can feel distressing for children and parents.
While losing baby teeth is typically a very natural process, here are some things you should know about baby teeth not falling out.
Your Child’s Teeth
Babies begin getting their teeth around six months of age, but this can vary from baby to baby. As any parent of a teething baby can tell you, growing teeth can be a painful experience for little ones. It often results in tender, inflamed gums, a runny nose, fussiness, and a drive to chew on things.
Regular well-baby visits to your pediatrician or family physician will ensure that your baby is on track with teeth eruption (the official term for teeth pushing through the gums).
Between the ages of 6 months to 3 years, your child should erupt 20 teeth on the bottom jaw and 20 teeth on top, including a total of eight molars. These teeth are commonly called baby teeth, primary teeth, or milk teeth, but their official name is deciduous teeth.
The term “deciduous” means “falling off at maturity,” and most mammals have deciduous teeth that shed as they mature. The purpose of baby teeth is to work as placeholders within the baby’s small jawbone. As the jaw grows in size, bigger, permanent teeth begin to form below the placeholder baby teeth.
Once the jawbone has grown in size and density, the permanent teeth grow bigger below the gums. As the permanent teeth mature, the roots of the baby teeth dissolve, causing the baby tooth to become loose and wiggly before falling out. Once the baby tooth falls out, the permanent tooth will erupt in its place.
Children usually lose their teeth in the same order in which they erupted. All deciduous teeth are usually replaced by permanent teeth between the ages of 6 and 12 years. Just as babies feel discomfort in growing their first teeth, growing permanent molars can also cause discomfort as well as a drive to chew on things.
So, if your 6 to 12 year old child complains of jaw pain and/or begins to chew on toys or the end of their pencils, it could be a normal sign of new teeth coming in. Of course, check with your dentist to be sure all is going well.
What to Do For Baby Teeth Not Falling Out?
If your child’s baby teeth seem to be clinging longer than expected, regular dentist visits will ensure everything is healthy and following a natural timeline. Many parents wonder when their children should begin seeing the dentist.
The American Dental Association recommends taking children to the dentist within the first 6 months, following the their first tooth. Typically, that will be within 6 and 12 months old. That may seem young for the first trip to the dentist, but starting dental care early has two-fold benefits.
First, it establishes a healthy relationship between child and dentist at a very young age, reducing later anxiety over dental visits. Second, it reassures parents that their children are on track for healthy development while preventing potential future dental issues.
Some indications that your child may need dental help when baby teeth are not falling out:
- If your child has missed a dental milestone by a year or more
- When baby teeth are not becoming loose and the permanent teeth are erupting in front of or behind the baby teeth
- When your child is experiencing severe jaw pain
If baby teeth are not falling out, your dentist will be able to determine whether it is simply happening at a slower rate or whether the permanent tooth did not form properly below the gums. If the latter is the case, the baby tooth may become retained as the permanent tooth.
What Does a Retained Baby Tooth Mean For Future Teeth?
If a baby tooth is indeed retained with no permanent tooth formed to replace it, it is quite possible that the baby tooth will remain healthy well into adult hood. The most common concern with a retained baby tooth is the aesthetics. A baby tooth remains small compared to the larger adult teeth surrounding it.
Your dentist can fix the appearance of the retained baby tooth by building it up to match the surrounding permanent teeth with tooth-colored composite resin. This is a permanent solution that produces uniformity in the size and color of adult teeth.
Less commonly, a retained baby tooth might have more shallow roots than the surrounding adult teeth. If this is the case, your dentist might recommend the tooth be pulled and replaced with a dental implant.
For the patient, a dental implant fills the gap of the lost tooth, but for the dentist there is a more significant reason to replace a lost tooth with an implant. Our jawbone remains healthier when there is a root or an implant embedded within the bone.
When a missing tooth leaves a vacancy in the jaw, the bone will recede in that area, which can cause instability in the surrounding teeth. The best way to ensure the surrounding teeth stay healthy and stable is to replace the missing tooth with an implant. This will keep the jawbone strong and healthy.
No Cause to Worry
If you are a parent worried about baby teeth not falling out, the best thing to do is to consult with your dentist. Most likely, your dentist will assure you that the process will follow a typical healthy pattern, perhaps just at a slower pace than expected.
In cases where the process is not following a typical developmental timeline, your dentist will have safe and healthy options to help the process along a little. So, you and your child can rest assured that the elusive Tooth Fairy will eventually make her way to your child’s pillow. To schedule a consultation with one of our fine dentists, contact us here.