What Happens When Your Child's Baby Tooth Doesn't Fall Out? Here's What You Need To Know About Over-Retained Primary Teeth

Posted on: 7 October 2018

While losing baby teeth is a memorable part of childhood, some children have one or more stubborn teeth that refuse to fall out. This is referred to as an over-retained primary tooth. If your child is not losing his or her baby teeth on schedule or if you notice an adult tooth erupting in the wrong location, your child may be experiencing this condition. An over-retained primary tooth requires prompt treatment from a pediatric dentist in order to prevent it from causing problems all throughout your child's life. To help you understand more about this condition, here's what parents need to know about the causes and treatments for over-retained primary teeth.

What Causes Over-Retained Primary Teeth?

A common cause of over-retained primary teeth is the absence of corresponding permanent tooth development. With no adult tooth growing underneath a baby tooth, there's nothing to place any pressure on the baby tooth and cause it to fall out. In this case, your child will retain his or her baby tooth into adulthood.

Sometimes permanent teeth develop at an incorrect angle. If your child's adult tooth grows at a skewed angle, it may become stuck between two of your child's baby teeth and become unable to cause either one to fall out. An adult tooth may also grow in a direction that causes it to erupt slightly behind or slightly in front of your child's baby tooth, which also prevents it from forcing your child's baby tooth to fall out.

A third cause of over-retained baby teeth is ankylosis. This occurs when the periodontal fibers that connect the root of the tooth to the bone of the jaw become calcified, causing the tooth to solidly fuse to the jaw. When the bone is fused, permanent teeth are not able to push out the primary tooth.

How Are Over-Retained Primary Teeth Treated?

Every case of an over-retained primary tooth is different, and it's important to work closely with your pediatric dentist and orthodontist in order to develop a treatment plan. The condition of your child's primary tooth, the placement of the permanent tooth and the cause of your child's over-retained primary tooth are all taken into account in order to develop the most effective treatment strategy.

Primary teeth that are retained because a permanent tooth did not grow in that position are often left alone — if the primary tooth is healthy, there's no reason to remove it. Unfortunately, primary teeth often appear submerged when compared to surrounding permanent teeth due to their small size. Later in life, your child may opt for a cosmetic dental procedure such as a dental implant in order to even out his or her smile.

If a permanent tooth is developing but is unable to force out your child's primary tooth due to growing at the wrong angle or because the permanent tooth is fused to the jaw, the primary tooth may need to be extracted. Once the baby tooth is removed, the adult tooth often naturally shifts into the correct position. In some cases, an orthodontist may need to surgically guide the permanent tooth towards the correct angle of growth.

What Problems Does an Over-Retained Primary Tooth Cause?

An over-retained primary tooth has consequences for your child's dental health all throughout his or her life — they're more susceptible to decay, since they've been exposed to plaque and bacteria for a longer period of time than a permanent tooth. Permanent teeth that erupt in the wrong location can make it harder to chew and also make it more difficult for your child to adequately brush his or her teeth, which also increases the risk of tooth decay.

If your child has not lost one of his or her baby teeth on schedule or if your notice a permanent tooth erupting behind or in front of a primary tooth, schedule an appointment with a pediatric dental clinic. Treating an over-retained primary tooth in a prompt manner increases the chances that your child's permanent tooth will grow in with no problems. Contact a clinic, like Dentistry For Children & Adolescents, for more help.