Baby teeth are supposed to fall out to be replaced by permanent teeth, but sometimes they can fall out too early.
When are baby teeth supposed to fall out?
Baby teeth – also referred to as milk, primary or deciduous teeth – are the first set of teeth a child develops. There are normally 20 baby teeth in total, and they typically start falling out around the age of 5 or 6.
The first baby teeth to fall out are most often the same ones that were the first to arrive: the lower anterior (centre) teeth.
Baby teeth fall out because their roots start to “resorb” when it’s time for the adult teeth to start growing in. 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 almost never fall out too early on their own. Most of the time, if they fall out early, it will be as a result of tooth decay, or being knocked out.
Losing a baby tooth too soon can cause a variety of dental health complications, and if this happens, it should be addressed as soon as possible by a dentist or orthodontist. Depending on the age of your child and the location of the prematurely lost tooth or teeth, interceptive orthodontic treatment may be recommeneded.
If baby teeth fall out too early, the other teeth around them may shift out of position. And since 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 far easier and much less invasive to deal with the tooth loss early on, when the baby tooth first falls out, than it is to deal with it once the permanent teeth have come in crooked.
Early interceptive orthodontics treats problems as they come up, to prevent more serious issues in the future.
The premature loss of baby teeth is most often 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.