For most children, losing their baby teeth is a mark of maturity, and even an exciting time. They get to proudly show off wiggly teeth or brand-new gaps to family and friends, and might even find a little money under their pillow from the tooth fairy, if they’re lucky!
We all have primary teeth, colloquially known as “baby teeth,” when we’re young, because children’s mouths have limited room for teeth. These twenty smaller teeth fall out naturally as we grow, pushed out of the gum by the emerging permanent teeth. That is — they should. But not all baby teeth cooperate.
Baby Teeth That Won’t Go Away
There are a variety of reasons that baby teeth might be retained longer than they should be. Sometimes the tooth simply doesn’t get pushed out of the gum due to a missing or misaligned adult tooth. Other times, the baby tooth may have fused to the jaw bone, a condition known as ankylosis. Retained baby teeth can also be a result of obstructions, trauma, or even infection.
Unfortunately, having a retained baby tooth can present a problem for your oral health. Being stuck with that smaller tooth could cause adjacent teeth to “tip” towards the smaller tooth, and could increase your risk of cavities. And of course, retained baby teeth can be an aesthetic concern, too!
Making Baby Teeth Look Grown Up
Luckily, there are steps your dentist can take to solve all of those problems. The most common solutions to retained baby teeth are bonding, veneers, and crowns.
Dental bonding is a flexible solution for issues with tooth size and shape. Your dentist will use a plastic putty, reinforced with ceramic pieces for strength, to build up the areas of your tooth that are lacking. Once the proper shape has been achieved, the putty will be activated using a specific color of light, so it hardens. This is a great way to fill gaps between teeth, and build up unusually small teeth to match their neighbors. Best of all, it’s affordable and can be done in one appointment.
If you’re looking for a more powerful solution that will be stronger and hold up to more wear than dental bonding, you’re looking for porcelain veneers. Veneers allow you to completely replace the visible surface of your tooth. It will take a couple visits to get your teeth measured and fitted with the veneers, but this long-lasting, durable result is worth the investment.
If your retained baby tooth is too small or too weak to support a porcelain veneer, it may require a crown. A crown is applied like a sheath over the tooth, lending its strength to the original tooth. Best of all, new advances have made porcelain crowns strong enough for any application, so that your crowns can last for decades — with no metal in your mouth!