Baby or Primary Tooth Loss

Humans have two sets of teeth or dentitions. The first set are baby teeth, also called primary or milk teeth, and the second set are permanent teeth. Baby teeth serve an important function in the development of permanent tooth placement. If baby teeth stay in place for too long or are prematurely lost, it can adversely affect the eruption pattern and alignment of the permanent teeth. At each of your child’s regular six month check-ups, Dr. Chan will track your child’s eruption status. If necessary, he will inform you of any preventative measures to consider to minimize future permanent crowding or abnormal spaces between the teeth.

Primary Tooth Loss Schedule

Baby teeth are typically lost at certain ages. This varies slightly from child to child but should follow a certain pattern that corresponds to the pattern of permanent tooth eruption. If a child loses his/her teeth in a pattern that is outside of the normal eruption schedule, it may cause teeth to crowd or become misaligned. If a child goes several years over the normal tooth loss schedule, it may delay permanent tooth eruption or cause existing permanent teeth to shift into unnatural placements. Baby teeth are generally lost around the following ages:

  • 6-8 years of age – Loss of the lower and upper front (central) primary incisors
  • Loss of the lower and upper side (lateral) incisors
  • 8-10 years of age – 1-2 year pause
  • 10-13 years of age – Loss of the lower canines (cuspids) and first molars
  • Loss of the upper canines, then upper and lower molars

Extraction Considerations

If a baby tooth is damaged or begins to decay, it may be necessary to extract the tooth in order to save gum health and eliminate pain. However, extracting a baby tooth before it is time for the permanent tooth to erupt can allow surrounding teeth to shift to fill the gap. If the tooth can be saved, dentists often recommend using other methods so that the gap is naturally filled until the permanent tooth comes in. If it becomes necessary to extract a primary tooth, Dr. Chan may recommend filling the space with a prosthetic tooth until the permanent tooth comes in. It may also be necessary to fill a space with a prosthetic tooth if more than three months pass between the loss of a baby tooth and the eruption of a permanent tooth. Sometimes a radiograph (x-ray) can show the status of the developing permanent tooth below the gum surface.

Primary Tooth Extraction Benefits

If primary teeth are pulled at an appropriate time, it can sometimes prevent later complications. Pulling primary teeth will not permanently solve crowding issues, but it can help dentists guide permanent tooth development patterns so that straightening procedures and surgeries that would have been necessary later can be avoided; however, every child develops differently. In our office Dr. Chan will discuss all possible remedies for childhood tooth complications with parents to prepare them to make an informed decision for their child.

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