Timing of Loss of Baby Teeth and Orthodontics Treatment
There is a direct link between the timing of the loss of baby teeth and Orthodontics treatment. Most children begin to lose their primary (baby) teeth around age 6 and will continue to do so until they are around 12. These are just the averages ages; some kids will start a little early, and others will start a bit later which can be completely normal.
Usually, the baby teeth are lost in the order that they came in. For example, kids will lose their two front bottom teeth first, and then their two front top teeth. The side teeth are lost next, with the molars being the last to fall out, usually by 12-years old. Wisdom teeth don’t come in until sometime between 17 and 21 years old. The American Dental Association has a chart that helps show the order of the loss and eruption of primary and permanent teeth: https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Publications/Files/patient_56.pdf?la=en.
Loss of Early Primary Baby Teeth and Orthodontics
Baby teeth are actually formed while the fetus is still in the womb, however they won’t begin to emerge until around 6-months of age. Children will usually have all twenty of their baby teeth by the time they’re 3-years old.
Baby teeth hold space for the permanent teeth that will come in later. When a child is young and their jaws are continuing to form, there isn’t enough room in the mouth for the larger, permanent teeth. Thus, those teeth will come in beginning with the front teeth first, just the same as the baby teeth did so that the jaw will be large and strong enough to handle the permanent teeth as it grows.
Some kids can lose a baby tooth early. This can be caused by trauma to the mouth/tooth or a cavity. In some children, genetics play a role on when they lose their baby teeth so it’s not necessarily unusual for the process to begin a little early or a little late.
Early primary tooth loss can also be caused by tooth decay that occurs when the child is using a bottle and it’s left in the mouth for too long (such as when a baby falls asleep) because sugars in the milk or juice can cause bacteria to form.
The permanent teeth grow under the baby teeth and as a permanent tooth starts to emerge, the root of the baby tooth will die off, causing the tooth to be loose. Once this process is complete, the tooth falls out and the new tooth should come in within a month or two.
If the baby tooth has been damaged, it may fall out before the permanent tooth is ready to come in. This can cause future problems with baby teeth and orthodontics may be needed. If a primary tooth falls out too early, it leaves a space. With no permanent tooth coming in behind it to fill the space, the other teeth in the mouth will start to shift towards each other and fill the space. This in turn, creates crowding issues once the permanent tooth is ready to come in which will likely warrant orthodontic treatment such as braces or an extraction later on in order to correct the crowding.
Delayed Loss of Primary Baby Teeth and Orthodontics
If the baby teeth are late in emerging, a different set of challenges can occur because the permanent teeth can start to come in while the baby teeth are still in the mouth. It can look as if there are two rows of teeth in the mouth. This process causes the adult teeth to come in crooked which will require orthodontic treatment to straighten them with braces later on.
Early Orthodontic Intervention
If your child has lost a baby tooth and 2 to 3 months have gone by without the adult tooth coming in, it’s time to see an orthodontist. The orthodontist can place a “space maintainer” (either removable or fixed) between the existing teeth in order to hold that space for the permanent tooth and prevent the other teeth from moving in to fill it.
If a primary tooth is missing for too long, it can cause the other teeth in the mouth surrounding that tooth to become loose because they’re not supported which will cause them to move.
Some space maintainers are removable but these are generally only used by a child old enough to know how and when to remove it and to keep it clean. For younger children, or for back teeth, a fixed maintainer is appropriate. It’s attached to the two surrounding teeth by a cement bond and can be taken off by the orthodontist once the permanent tooth emerges.
For those children who have baby teeth that are delayed in falling out and the permanent teeth are starting to come in, orthodontic treatment is needed as well. After a thorough examination, the orthodontist may want to go ahead and extract the baby tooth in order to make room for the permanent one.
Even if you don’t notice these types of issues occurring with your child, it’s still a good idea for an orthodontic exam at age 7 to see if there are any problems developing with the jaw. Most of the baby teeth are still in place at this time and it’s good to have a specialist identify whether or not there is anything that needs attention.
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends this too for all kids. To read more about the advantages of early orthodontic treatment and how it can prevent or reduce treatment time later on: https://www.aaoinfo.org/system/files/media/documents/Right_Time_for_Ortho-MLMS-hl.pdf.
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The timing of when your child loses their baby teeth and orthodontics treatment to prevent overly crowded or crooked permanent teeth is very important.
Catching any issues early can save you and your child from more extensive Orthodontic Treatment later.
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