When A Loose Baby Tooth Wants To Stay Put

Dissolving roots sounds like something you'd encounter in yard work—when you're trying everything you can to get rid of a stubborn tree. It's not something you'd expect to happen in your child's mouth, but root resorption (to use its proper name) is what happens when a primary (baby) tooth loosens and makes way for a secondary (adult) tooth. But what does it mean when that primary tooth refuses to fall out? 

The Adult Tooth Expands

As an adult tooth forms, its expansion quite literally dissolves the roots securing the baby tooth it's to replace. The adult tooth then erupts, moving through the gumline and becoming visible. This cannot happen when the primary tooth is blocking the secondary tooth's path. This can be frustrating and even confusing. The tooth is clearly loose, and its time has come. Should you give it some assistance?

Delicate Soft Tissues

Be cautious about how much assistance a loose baby tooth is given. Your child will inevitably move the tooth with their tongue, both deliberately and inadvertently. This won't do any harm, yet more decisive measures (such as attempting to pull the tooth) can easily damage the delicate soft tissues in your child's mouth. The tooth may come out, but the oral mucosa (soft lining of the mouth) can tear, resulting in bleeding and severe discomfort. 

Your Family Dentist

If your child's efforts to wiggle the tooth with their tongue don't yield results, it's time to tackle the problem, with some assistance from the dentist who handles your family's dental care needs. A dentist may want to start with an x-ray, just to confirm the presence and pending eruption of the adult tooth. Sometimes a secondary tooth fails to form, although that's not likely to be applicable in your child's case, as the primary tooth has already loosened.

Removal or Referral

What may be happening is the development of shark teeth. This is a term used to describe the simultaneous presence of both baby and adult teeth, creating two rows of teeth. In this instance, the baby tooth can be safely extracted to create a pathway for the adult tooth. However, there could also be an issue with overcrowding, as the size and configuration of your child's jaw means that there's inadequate space for the secondary tooth to safely erupt. If overcrowding is a factor, your child may be referred to an orthodontist.

There are numerous reasons why a loose baby tooth may want to stay put, and you'll need to consult your family dentist if the tooth doesn't want to cooperate.

Reach out to a family dental care clinic to learn more.