Should I Be Concerned About a Baby Tooth I Haven't Lost?

Most people have 20 baby teeth, or primary teeth. Meant to be temporary, these teeth play an important role in preserving space for your permanent teeth until they are ready to erupt. 

Baby teeth appear and fall out on their own timeline. Though they generally begin erupting at around 6 months of age and fall out by age 13, the rate at which your baby teeth expire can vary. 

However, when a baby tooth doesn’t follow this natural course, it’s possible to grow past adolescence with a baby tooth. A baby tooth that remains in place is called a retained baby tooth.

Victor Zurita, DDS, and the orthodontic specialists at Invisible Braces in Houston, Texas, can assess whether your retained baby tooth is a cause for concern. With a comprehensive dental examination and dental X-rays, the team at Invisible Braces can determine whether the baby tooth is causing problems with the alignment and spacing of your permanent teeth. When treatment is necessary, Dr. Zurita designs a personalized treatment plan using clear aligners to restore normal function and appearance. 

Find out more about the dental issues related to a retained baby tooth and when the condition may be problematic.

How a retained baby tooth occurs

Baby teeth fall out naturally as permanent teeth develop behind them. As your permanent teeth mature, they push baby teeth out so they can occupy the space.

Baby teeth that remain into adulthood are typically harmless. The most common reason a baby tooth doesn’t fall out is the absence of an adult tooth to replace it. Although the reason this occurs isn’t fully understood, factors such as genetics, trauma, infection, irradiation, and some medical conditions can contribute to the absence of permanent teeth.

In some cases, a permanent tooth may develop, but fail to erupt because there isn’t adequate room. This can also occur if the permanent tooth is impacted, a condition in which it is prevented from breaking through the gumline. An injury or infection can also interfere with the normal development and eruption of a permanent tooth

Failure of a permanent tooth to erupt can also occur when the baby tooth is fused to your jawbone. This condition, called ankylosis, is twice as likely to happen to lower teeth than upper teeth. 

When a retained baby tooth requires treatment

Some retained baby teeth can remain in place for a lifetime without causing structural or aesthetic problems. If the crown, roots, and supporting bone of the baby tooth are healthy, it can be retained into adulthood. 

However, a retained baby tooth that isn’t aligned can be hard to clean and increase your risk of cavities. It can also cause a gap between teeth because of its typically smaller size. A retained baby tooth can allow other teeth to become misaligned or overcrowded because it doesn’t occupy the same space as a normal permanent tooth.

When permanent teeth erupt while baby teeth remain intact, you’re likely to have extra teeth in your mouth, which can affect normal oral function and appearance.

Treatment for a retained baby tooth

When a retained baby tooth causes misalignment or overcrowding, it may require correction or extraction. A thorough oral examination can help determine the best course of treatment.

Clear aligners by SureSmile® can provide a solution to overcrowding caused by a retained baby tooth. When a baby tooth is removed, customized clear aligners can close the gap instead of requiring an implant or other type of artificial replacement in the open space. 

Using clear aligners can achieve these types of correction without the discomfort and embarrassment of traditional metal braces. 

To find out more about retained baby teeth and ways to achieve a perfect smile, schedule an appointment online, or call our office. 

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