Does your teen still have some baby teeth? You might even have a baby tooth… or a few! The prolonged presence of a baby tooth doesn’t always mean there’s a problem, but it is atypical.
Many people assume that baby teeth have a limited lifespan in and of themselves. When you wiggle out a baby tooth, the crown of the tooth is all that’s present, so some people assume that’s baby teeth never had roots. (Perhaps that’s why they get lost so quickly??) Ok, maybe that was just my theory as a kid!
For background, humans have 20 baby teeth and 32 permanent teeth (including wisdom teeth). This means that your the teeth from the premolars forward had baby teeth predecessors and all of your molars did not. When you lose a baby tooth it happens because a permanent tooth is in the process of erupting into that space. That permanent tooth eats away at the root of the baby tooth, causing it to be loose and eventually fall out. At least, that’s what normally happens.
Don’t worry, if a baby tooth isn’t falling out it doesn’t mean that your teeth are “abnormal”! 🙂 There are a couple of situations in which these stubborn baby teeth just need a little attention:
- 1) If the permanent tooth is erupting a little off-course, the baby tooth can’t fall out on it’s own. In these cases, the baby tooth should be removed by a dentist in a timely manner to allow the permanent tooth to come in either on its own or with the help of an orthodontist.
- 2) Your pediatric dentist may have told you that you’re missing a permanent tooth or a few! This most commonly happens with upper lateral incisors (side front teeth) and the lower second premolars (they are meant to be replaced by the furthest back baby molar).
If you’re missing a lateral incisor, the baby tooth that’s present probably won’t last your whole life. Doctors Abdoney and Cronauer may determine that the best course of action be to a) remove the baby tooth and close the space orthodontically b) temporarily keep the baby tooth and have it built up/restored by a dentist to give it a proper size c) extract the baby tooth and plan to have it replaced by an implant or bridge.
If you’re missing a premolar or canine, the baby tooth does have a good chance of lasting for many years. Your orthodontist will be able to give you the best bite possible, which may not involve removing it. If you do hang on to your baby tooth, there is a chance that the roots resorb and disappear later in life, in which case it’s usually best to replace it with an implant or bridge when you get to that point.
Have Doctor Abdoney or Cronauer take a look at the stubborn baby tooth in your family: it might need a little help coming out! 🙂