Early Loss of Baby Teeth
In keeping with National Children’s Dental Health Month, we are reprinting with permission, a question and answer feature from Dear Doctor magazine. The Smile Generation connects you with great dentists including pediatric dentists, orthodontists and other specialists. This piece highlights the importance of maintaining the space caused by the premature loss of baby teeth.
Q. Dear Doctor,
My child has lost some baby teeth from tooth decay. My general dentist wants me to see an orthodontist to discuss keeping the space. Could you explain to me why this is important?
A. Dear Sarah,
Your dentist and orthodontist understand the complex dynamics of growth and development of the jaws. What is essential for you to know is that the baby teeth also serve a very important function of maintaining space. If they are lost prematurely, the spaces created can dramatically shrink becoming smaller and smaller, leaving insufficient space available for the permanent (adult) teeth. As soon as the six-year molars have erupted into the mouth, it is important not to let them drift forward into the spaces created by premature loss of baby teeth. A “space maintenance appliance,” a type of “retainer,” can be used which can also help socially if the missing tooth or teeth show. If the spaces are not prevented from shrinking, the permanent teeth will come in crowded or crooked. As your child grows and matures these misaligned permanent teeth could necessitate prolonged orthodontic treatment (braces) with consequent greater financial impact.
Maintaining space is therefore to your advantage. It is unfortunate that your child has lost his/her baby teeth earlier than normal, but as you can see space maintenance can be critically important. If your child ultimately needs orthodontics to straighten his/her teeth, the possibility of needing further teeth extracted will be a reduced. Moreover, a beautiful smile could be compromised by not maintaining space should the baby teeth be lost prematurely. Be sure to ask you dentist or orthodontist about what to do if your child has to lose a baby tooth prematurely.
Review Date: 8/1/2007
Authored By: Dr. Barry Kayne
Reviewed By: Dr. Garry A. Rayant, Editor-in-Chief, Dear Doctor, Inc.
Reprinted with permission. This content provided is for general informational purposes only. No action should be taken by you based on this content. We urge you to consult with your dental health professional on all matters relating to you and your family’s dental health. Copyright ® 2011 Dear Doctor, Inc.