Baby teeth are the first set of teeth you grow. They’re also known as deciduous, temporary, or primary teeth.
Teeth begin coming in around 6 to 10 months old. All 20 baby teeth tend to be fully grown in by age 3. Once permanent teeth start to form behind the existing ones, they push the baby teeth out.
Sometimes, a person’s baby teeth aren’t pushed out and remain until adulthood. Read on to learn why this occurs and what you can do to treat adult baby teeth.
Adult baby teeth, also known as retained baby teeth, are fairly common.
In people who have adult baby teeth, the second molar is most likely to stay retained. This is because it often doesn’t have a permanent one growing behind it.
The main risk of leaving adult baby teeth untreated is complications in tooth development, such as:
- Infraocclusion. Baby teeth remain in a fixed position while the teeth next to them continue to erupt.
- Occlusal trauma. Teeth don’t line up when you close your mouth.
- Diastema. There are gaps or spaces between your teeth.
The most common reason for retaining baby teeth as an adult is a lack of permanent teeth to replace them.
Some conditions involving tooth development can result in adult baby teeth, such as:
- Hyperdontia. You have extra teeth, and there’s not enough room for permanent teeth to erupt.
- Hypodontia. One to five permanent teeth are missing.
- Oligodontia. Six or more permanent teeth are missing.
- Anodontia. The majority of or all permanent teeth are missing.
But even if a permanent tooth exists, it may not grow in. A number of factors can result in this, including:
- ankylosis, a rare disorder that fuses teeth to the bone, preventing any movement
- genetics, such as a family history of incomplete tooth penetration
- other conditions associated with tooth development, such as ectodermal dysplasia and endocrine disorders
- mouth trauma or infection
There are times when retaining the tooth may actually be the best option for your health. This is particularly the case when the tooth and root are still structurally, functionally, and aesthetically sound.
Minimal maintenance is needed for this approach, but it may result in too much or too little space for a replacement in the future.
Orthodontics and surgery
Modification may be needed to prevent infraocclusion, even if the root and crown are in good condition.
The simplest type of modification is to add a molded cap to the top of the baby tooth. This gives it the appearance of an adult tooth while maintaining the integrity of the tooth’s base.
Some cases may require extraction, such as:
If crowding is severe enough, the baby tooth may need to be removed in order to straighten the teeth. However, removal without a permanent replacement can lead to further complications in the future, especially with dental implants.
If the baby tooth has significant weaknesses, such as root resorption or decay, replacement may be necessary.
Implants tend to be the preferred replacement method. However, implants aren’t recommended for use until after the late teenage years, as the skeletal structure is still forming.
Partial dentures are also a popular solution if there are large amounts of missing teeth or problems with mouth tissues.
Overall, adult baby teeth shouldn’t be kept, unless removal causes further distress to the teeth and mouth.
Additionally, baby teeth shouldn’t be on the receiving end of any orthodontic procedures, like braces. It can speed up the root resorption process that can contribute to the orthodontic issue in the first place.
Schedule an appointment with your dentist if you’re unsure about having adult baby teeth. They can help you decide what to do, if anything, and provide recommendations tailored to you.