Deciduous tooth loss is a normal part of growth and development. But it did not seem so normal to little Emma when she lost her first one.
Emma’s Deciduous Tooth Loss: Our Mini-Case Study
Emma is a sensitive little girl and she is a very pretty child. At seven years old she doesn’t even mind a bit if her friends call her “girly.” And now she runs screaming to her mom with a tiny deciduous or “baby” tooth in her hand. “Mommy, there’s blood!”
Emma’s tooth loss is totally normal, but since we featured a tooth fairy story last week, we thought this week we would begin the New Year by shining the spot light of reality on some factual information behind baby teeth.
Baby Teeth Matter, Even Though Children Lose Them
Mommy calmed her down, looked at the little wound and calmly explained that this was a normal part of growing up. She looked in her daughter’s mouth and blithely said, “Yup, your little tooth is gone forever, and now your big new tooth has room to grow.”
They looked at the little tooth. It was hollow and had no roots at all. “No wonder it fell out, Mommy. It hardly had any roots at all,” remarked Emma. It made her kind of sad. She sighed dramatically. Her mother smiled. Her mother knew her child was beginning an important stage of developmental growth.
Life and Times of Deciduous Teeth
The mother thought back to the beginning when her Baby Emma’s first tooth appeared. That was an exciting development for both of Emma’s parents. Now a new cycle would begin, but before we discuss it, let’s review the normal development of baby or deciduous teeth.
The Normal Development of Deciduous Teeth: A Review
According to the experts at WebMd, “The first teeth begin to break through the gums at about 6 months of age.
- Usually, the first two teeth to erupt are the two bottom central incisors (the two bottom front teeth).
- Next, the top four front teeth emerge. After that, the other teeth slowly begin to fill in. They usually come in pairs — one each side of the upper or lower jaw.
- By the time a child is 2 ½ to 3 years old, he or she will have all 20 deciduous teeth (10 in the upper jaw and 10 in the lower jaw.)
- This complete set of primary teeth will remain in the child’s mouth with careful oral care, until about age 6 to 7 years of age.
Emma’s Tooth Loss Adventures: Just Beginning
Once the mom reminded her about the tooth fairy, Emma took a cold wash cloth to hold against her mouth, and settled down to watch television. She still did not like the hole in her smile, but she wanted to have the nice big teeth she saw in movies. And she had seen her big brother Brad loose teeth in the same way.
She held on tightly to the little tooth, and she was not so sure she wanted to trade it to the tooth fairy, even for a dollar. Her mood was a little subdued. Perhaps she knew in some small, far corner of her mind that shc had reached a childhood milestone. While Emma sits quietly thinking baby thoughts about her baby teeth, let’s reflect on understanding the process of losing a baby tooth.
Baby Teeth Must Be Shed, Just Like a Deciduous Tree Sheds its Leaves
Experts like Dr. Ana Lucia Seminario tell us, “Baby teeth, also known as primary or deciduous teeth, are just like deciduous trees that shed their leaves. These teeth are supposed to be lost to make room for the larger adult or
permanent teeth that succeed them.”
And just as your child follows a predictable schedule of growing the baby teeth, they will lose them according to a developmental growth schedule. (Read on to discover it.)
Deciduous Truth: The Anatomy of a Baby Tooth
Let’s take a look at the anatomy and of a baby tooth and the process of tooth growth.
- It’s interesting to realize that the pearly parts of the teeth you see in your child’s mouth are the “crowns” of the baby teeth.
- Most of the tooth hides under the gum, attached to the bone. It is the root of the baby tooth, and doomed to be destroyed.
- Under the baby tooth lodged in the gum, deep in the jawbones are a special clumped group of cells called “germs.” The name comes from germination, which specifies growth. Think of these clusters of special cells as plant bulbs. However, they do not grow plants, they are destined to grow into permanent teeth.
- But unlike plants that grow roots first, permanent teeth grow their crowns first. In the dark, under Emma’s baby tooth, the permanent tooth’s germ grows, pushing on the baby tooth.
- Then, one day, as the roots of the permanent tooth develop, the permanent tooth pushes the baby tooth into the mouth through the gum tissues.
- This process stimulates the roots of the baby teeth to be absorbed or melted away. “As the roots are the foundations of the baby teeth and are undermined by the melting away process,” they become loose. At this point, children like Emma should be encourage to wiggle, wobble, and worry them looser.
- Finally the absorption effect will make the baby teeth so loose that a little tug or coaxing will make them fall out. At this point absorption has done its work and what is left of the tooth is actually the crown with perhaps a little gum tissue.
Your pediatric dentist at your dental home will keep scrupulous records to watch the development of your child’s teeth. “Just as you watch your child develop baby teeth, it’s critical that you check out the sequence of their loss.”
At Dentistry for Children, we are very aware of this.We watch to see if child loses baby teeth prematurely, due to decay or injury. If the baby teeth come out early, then that space must be maintained. In some cases, we must insert a spacer. With a spacer, we can keep the proper space that the inappropriately lost teeth occupied. Only then will adult teeth will come in with good positioning and proper alignment.
Losing Deciduous Teeth on a Schedule
Because we are a “dental home” to our young patients at Dentistry for Children, and we see them every 6 months, we can monitor their teeth. We will make sure the permanent teeth are coming in with proper alignment and on schedule.
We have explained the importance of healthy deciduous teeth many times. Keep in mind the baby teeth are a blueprint for the permanent ones.
Don’t hesitate to call us if you are concerned about a tooth that is lost off schedule or anything out of the ordinary.
Below is a chart that shows you the actual time of emergence of a deciduous tooth and the time to expect it to get lose and fall out. https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/dental-health-your-childs-teeth#1
TOOTH EMERGENCE LOSS
|Central incisor||8 to 12 months||6 to 7 years|
|Lateral incisor||9 to 13 months||7 to 8 years|
|Canine (cuspid)||16 to 22 months||10 to 12 years|
|First molar||13 to 19 months||9 to 11 years|
|Second molar||25 to 33 months||10 to 12 years|
|Second molar||23 to 31 months||10 to 12 years|
|First molar||14 to 18 months||9 to 11 years|
|Canine (cuspid)||17 to 23 months||9 to 12 years|
|Lateral incisor||10 to 16 months||7 to 8 years|
|Central incisor||6 to 10 months||6 to 7 years|
Sharks Teeth: We’re Going To Need a Bigger Mouth!
Sometimes the permanent tooth “misses” the baby tooth. Then you see permanent teeth grow in behind the baby teeth. So, in such a case, two rows of teeth appear, causing overcrowding. This is called Shark’s teeth and it happens
more often than you might realize, usually in the lower jaw.
What Should a Parent Do about Shark’s Teeth?
If you see this happening, call your pediatric dentist. “Sometimes, the permanent teeth miss the baby teeth and push through the gums behind them. With nothing pushing and dissolving their roots, the baby teeth stay put.” We cannot help but think of the mouth of a shark wherein row upon row of teeth line up, sometimes 50 deep. Sharks always sport at least two rows of teeth, but it’s a little shocking to see it in your child. Actually, “Shark teeth” are fairly common occurrences in children. Did you know they will often fix themselves? And they do not hurt. The baby teeth might finally fall out, totally on their own. However, if you notice shark teeth in your child’s mouth, we advise you to call the dentist so he can check them.
Special Note: We do not advise yanking out shark teeth (or any other teeth, actually.) DIY dentistry is never a good idea. They might need to be extracted by your pediatric dentist, based on the x-ray.
So the baby teeth are finally removed, either by nature or by your pediatric dentist. And the proper new space opens up. Amazingly, the permanent teeth will typically shift forward and take their place in their proper position. Thus will the saga of shark teeth end for your child.
Treasure Those Pearly Whites of Childhood
Once again, we must stress how important it is to maintain oral health habits in young children. We feel the importance of the baby or deciduous teeth is far under estimated. They have an important place in childhood development and deserve brushing and flossing with care. We would be remiss if we did not wish you a Happy New Year.
May your New Year flourish
with new discoveries,
and happiness to fill your heart.
The Dr. Troy King and the Health Professionals of Dentistry for Children wish you happiness, health and prosperity for 2019!