Early loss of baby teeth can sometimes cause long-term problems and require special care from your child’s dentist.
3 minute read
Losing baby teeth is a milestone that children pass at different times. Most primary teeth fall out naturally to make way for their permanent replacements, but teeth may be lost earlier if they are badly damaged or decayed, knocked out, or have to be removed.
If your child loses a tooth earlier than expected, it’s important to see a children’s dentist as soon as possible. They will examine their mouth to check for signs of problems and may discuss treatment options to help avoid the complications of premature tooth loss.
When should baby teeth fall out?
Baby teeth (also called primary teeth or milk teeth) are the first set of teeth children have. They form beneath the gums within the womb and have normally all erupted by the age of 3 and begin to fall out naturally from the age of 5 or 6, but this varies for every child.
Like baby teeth, the permanent teeth (secondary teeth or adult teeth) erupt in stages, so your child’s first set of teeth will gradually be replaced by new teeth until the age of 11 to 13. Tooth loss usually follows the same pattern as the child’s original teething, beginning with the lower front teeth followed by the upper front teeth.
Children whose baby teeth came in early usually lose them earlier than average, and the same goes for those whose teeth erupted later. Girls also tend to develop their permanent teeth earlier than boys. Losing a baby tooth a little early or late isn’t usually a sign of a problem, unless they have been knocked out, badly damaged or decayed. This is when you would need to consult a dentist to ensure there is no lasting damage.
Why do baby teeth fall out early?
Primary teeth naturally come loose when the permanent teeth growing underneath start to push upwards from inside the gum and destroy the roots holding them in place, but teeth may fall out earlier for different reasons.
Teeth may be irreparably damaged or knocked out during sports, fights, falls or other accidents and injuries. If a damaged tooth is loose or prone to infection, your child’s dentist may recommend removal.
Oral health problems
Severe tooth decay or gum disease can damage teeth and weaken their supporting structures so that they may come loose or need to be removed.
Medical conditions that affect bone development (such as hypophosphatasia) or other conditions may cause teeth to come loose and fall out prematurely.
What happens if a baby tooth falls out too early?
Baby teeth may only be temporary, but they have vital roles in helping young children to eat a healthy and balanced diet and develop speech. They also serve as markers for their future teeth and maintain space in their growing jaws for the larger adult teeth to come through.
When a tooth comes loose and falls out naturally, the gap will soon be filled by its replacement. If a tooth is lost too early though, this can lead to orthodontic issues such as teeth on either side becoming crooked or drifting into the gap, which can cause crowding when a new tooth erupts.
Misaligned or crowded teeth don’t just affect a child’s appearance. They could also impact on their ability to eat or speak and may increase their risk of developing oral health problems if teeth are harder to keep clean. Misaligned baby teeth often result in misaligned adult teeth without early orthodontic treatment.
What to do if your child loses a tooth too early
Losing any tooth can be an upsetting or uncomfortable experience for children, so it’s important to stay calm and reassure them, even if the tooth loss was unexpected.
Contact their dentist as soon as possible to arrange an appointment so they can examine their mouth and recommend whether treatment is needed in the form of interceptive orthodontics.
If there may be a risk of the surrounding teeth crowding the space or becoming crooked, your child’s dentist may recommend space maintainers. These are preventive orthodontic devices that may be fixed or removable, depending on the child’s age.
As their name suggests, space maintainers hold the adjacent teeth in position to prevent them from shifting into the gap. This ensures there will be enough space for the permanent tooth to erupt when it’s time.
What if a baby tooth is knocked out?
If a baby tooth has been knocked out, you should not try to put it back into place, as this could damage the replacement tooth developing beneath the gums.
Contact an emergency dentist so they can check for any other damage or signs of problems and discuss whether space maintainers may be needed.
How to prevent early tooth loss
It’s not always possible to prevent premature tooth loss, but you can lower the risk of your child losing their teeth early with good preventive care.
Good oral hygiene
Tooth decay and gum disease are preventable diseases that can usually be avoided with a good oral hygiene routine.
Like adults, kids should brush their teeth at least twice a day, floss once daily and follow a nutritionally balanced diet with limited sugar.
Protective mouthguards should be worn by all children who take part in contact sports such as rugby, soccer or hockey, or other activities that involve a risk of injury to the teeth and mouth.
Kids’ dentists can provide custom mouthguards that offer better protection and are more comfortable to wear than mouthguards bought from stores.
Regular dental visits
It’s recommended that children should begin seeing a dentist within 6 months of getting their first tooth and then twice a year after that. This gives their dentist the chance to monitor their rapidly developing teeth and gums and improves the chance of them catching and treating problems such as tooth decay early, lowering the risk of tooth loss.
Your child’s dentist will also discuss their oral hygiene habits and may recommend options such as an electric toothbrush, plaque disclosing tablets or floss alternatives if they need some help to improve their oral health.
Read our blogs on ‘When Should I Start Taking My Child to the Dentist?‘ or ‘8 Best Toothbrushes & Toothpastes for Kids‘.
If your child’s baby teeth have small pits and grooves in their surfaces, these can trap bacteria and food, making teeth more vulnerable to decay and harder to brush. Dentists can fill these pits and grooves with fissure sealants.
These are made from composite resin, similar to a white filling, which your child’s dentist will match to their natural tooth colour for a seamless finish. The process is fast and painless, and does not require anaesthetic.
Talk to a children’s dentist in Kelmscott
Our caring team at Kelmscott Dental provide gentle care for kids of all ages, including free kids’ dental check-ups and basic treatments through the government’s CDBS scheme.
If your child needs to see a dentist or you have any concerns, call us today on (08) 9495 7999 or book an appointment online. We welcome patients from all nearby suburbs including Armadale and Gosnells.