When children begin losing their primary (“baby”) teeth, it’s a rite of passage — a sign that childhood is transitioning to future adulthood. And while it’s a normal part of dental development, it does bear watching for abnormalities.
Primary teeth are like deciduous tree leaves in that it’s their nature to shed and give way for new growth. They serve a purpose not only in providing children a means to bite and chew food, but also as guides for the permanent teeth that will soon erupt in their place.
As it reaches the end of its development within the jaw, the permanent tooth will begin to exert pressure on the primary tooth. This stimulates a process known as resorption where the primary’s roots begin to dissolve. This weakens its attachment to the jaw and the tooth becomes loose to the touch. At the end of this process, it doesn’t take much coaxing for the tooth to finally come out of its socket, with occasional minor bleeding and tenderness around the site. You will notice if you look at the bottom of the lost tooth that the roots have completely dissolved, leaving only a small indention.
This natural process, however, can run into complications. In their roles as permanent teeth guides, there’s a natural sequence for the loss of primary teeth; the permanent teeth develop along this sequence, which helps them erupt in the proper position. If a primary tooth is lost early and out of sequence (notably because of decay), the premature space can cause misalignment of the permanent teeth as they erupt.
That’s why it’s important for your child to have regular dental checkups, beginning sometime around their first birthday. This allows us to monitor primary tooth loss to make sure its progressing normally, as well as treat any condition such as tooth decay that could lead to premature loss. Regular checkups along with good oral hygiene practices will help ensure that the transition from primary to permanent teeth goes just as nature intended.
If you would like more information on the process of losing primary teeth in children, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Losing a Baby Tooth.”