While baby teeth are supposed to fall out to be replaced by permanent teeth, sometimes they can fall out too early. Find out what to do when this happens.
When are baby teeth supposed to fall out?
Baby teeth – also sometimes called milk, primary or deciduous teeth – are the first set of teeth a child develops. There are usually 20 baby teeth in total, and they normally start falling out around the age of 5 or 6.
The first baby teeth to fall out are usually the same ones that were the first to arrive: the lower anterior (centre) teeth.
Baby teeth fall out because their roots begin to shrink or “resorb” when it’s time for the adult teeth to start erupting. This causes them to loosen on their own, and, with the help of the erupting permanent teeth pushing from beneath, they eventually fall out.
What if my child loses a baby tooth too early?
Baby teeth rarely fall out too early on their own accord. Typically, they will fall out early only as a result of tooth decay, or being knocked out.
Losing a baby tooth too early can cause dental health complications, and should be addressed as soon as possible via an evaluation by an orthodontist. Depending on the age of your child and the location of the prematurely lost tooth or teeth, interceptive orthodontic treatment may be necessary.
When baby teeth go missing too early, it can allow the other teeth around them to shift out of position. And because the permanent teeth are guided into their proper positions by the baby teeth as they erupt, misaligned baby teeth can lead to misaligned adult teeth. And misaligned adult teeth require orthodontic intervention to fix.
It’s much easier and less invasive to deal with the problem early on, when the baby tooth first falls out, than to deal with it once the permanent teeth have come in crooked.
In short, early interceptive orthodontics treats problems as they come up, to avoid more serious issues in the future.
The too-early loss of baby teeth is typically treated with a space maintainer, which is put into place until the child is 8 years old. This device literally maintains the space left behind by the prematurely lost tooth, preventing the surrounding teeth from shifting and allowing the permanent teeth to erupt into the correct positions.