Most children begin loosing their baby teeth between the ages of five and seven, but there are a number of reasons children’s baby teeth sometimes don’t fall out.
Why Baby Teeth Don’t Fall Out?
- The first answer to that question lies in understanding what causes baby teeth to fall out. Simply put, when a permanent tooth starts pushing against the roots of a baby tooth the roots begin to dissolve. Once enough of the root structure has dissolved away the tooth becomes loose and falls out. If the permanent tooth starts to push through in front or behind (behind is more common) the baby tooth it can miss the baby tooth roots and won’t trigger them to dissolve.
This condition is nicknamed “shark teeth” because sharks have numerous rows of teeth fully exposed at the same time and when one tooth falls out another from behind moves up to take it’s place.
Did you know? Sharks can have anywhere from 5 to 50 rows of fully exposed teeth in each jaw at any given time!
- The second reason baby teeth fail to fall out is because of moderate to severe crowding that prevents the permanent tooth from being able to push through correctly.
- A third, but less common, reason for a baby tooth not to fall out is because the corresponding permanent tooth failed to develop.
What to Do When Baby Teeth Don’t Fall Out
If you notice a permanent tooth coming up in front of or behind a baby tooth here’s a quick check you can do to decide if it’s time to call your dentist.
- Is the baby tooth loose at all?
Yes – Get your child to start wiggling it like crazy over the next week or so and see if it will fall out naturally. If it doesn’t seem to be getting any closer to falling out after a 1-2 weeks take your child to the dentist.
No – You should take your child to the dentist.
The doctor will likely need to take an x-ray and find out if there is a permanent tooth waiting to come up or if the permanent tooth failed to develop.
Will the Dentist Need to Pull the Baby Tooth?
Your dentist will need to make this decision, but that decision will likely be a result of which of the three reasons listed above have caused your child’s baby tooth not to fall out.
- If your child has the “shark teeth” condition listed above and the baby tooth isn’t loose it is likely that the dentist will recommend having the child’s baby tooth extracted (pulled).
- If your child’s baby tooth hasn’t fallen out because of crowding the dentist may refer your child to an orthodontist for x-rays and an evaluation to determine which teeth are best to remove to ensure the best chance of the permanent teeth coming in correctly.
- If you child’s permanent tooth failed to develop the dentist is not likely to recommend pulling the baby tooth unless there are coinciding crowding issues. The baby tooth may be used as a permanent tooth as long as it remains healthy.
If you are nervous about the discomfort your child may feel getting a tooth pulled I invite you to read my blog post on How Our Office Keeps You Out of Pain.
Dr. Crump is a board-certified general dentist in Boise, Idaho. This blog is for informational purposes only to help people understand dental health and dental related issues. It is not meant to prescribe treatment or diagnose. Dr. Crump is licensed to diagnose and treat patients only in the state of Idaho. Opinions expressed here are protected by copyright laws and can only be used with written permission from the author.