Have you ever heard the term "shark tooth" when speaking of a child's mouth? This occurs when the permanent adult tooth erupts behind the baby tooth and does not loosen it. In most children's mouths, the permanent tooth comes in from behind the baby tooth, absorbing the baby tooth's roots, loosening the baby tooth, and eventually causing it to drop out. The permanent tooth takes over the space of the baby tooth and continues to grow. When the root does not get absorbed, both the baby and the permanent tooth remain. This causes the "shark tooth" appearance, or two rows of teeth as in a shark, and may seem a little strange when first discovered. Actually, this occurrence is quite common and rarely causes dental problems when cared for properly.
So, what is the difference you ask? Baby teeth look more bright white than the more ivory color of permanent teeth. Baby teeth are smooth, whereas the permanent teeth have a jagged ridge that helps them push through the surface of the gums.
Did you know that a child's permanent teeth, also called secondary teeth or adult teeth, begin to develop at birth? They are present (under the gums) when they are born and erupt as the baby teeth start to fall out. They can also come in earlier than expected if a baby tooth decays or breaks from an accident, making it necessary for the dentist to remove it. This may cause the teeth to be crowded, but our dentists can guide you and your child through alleviating this issue.
Usually, the baby teeth begin to loosen around the age of four to six. Your child will have 20 baby teeth, but after the permanent teeth erupt and the wisdom teeth come in during the teenage years, they will total 32. Many young adults need to have one or more of their wisdom teeth removed to allow room in the mouth and deter overcrowding.
The typical sequence of tooth loss is predictable. Usually, your child loses their bottom front middle teeth, which are called the lower central incisors. Next, the top front middle teeth fall out, also called the upper central incisors. From there, they fall out in this sequence:
Be patient if you start to see the permanent teeth before the baby tooth falls out, especially if the baby tooth is loose. Encourage your child to wiggle the tooth, and eventually, it should fall out. If the baby tooth does not loosen and the permanent tooth continues to grow behind it, contact us for an appointment to assess your child’s mouth and discuss treatment. If one baby tooth has not started to loosen and the permanent tooth is visible, be aware that it is not uncommon for the adjacent tooth to have the same result.
Our dentists will discuss options and may need to recommend removing the extra tooth. Our team may take X-rays of the child's teeth to correctly diagnose what is causing the extra teeth or the lack of permanent teeth. If the x-rays show that the permanent tooth has not formed, the baby tooth will remain as the permanent tooth. With good oral hygiene and dental appointments, there should be no problems with this tooth staying where it is.
Suppose you are concerned that your child’s baby teeth are not starting to loosen or fall out when they pass the ordinary age range. Call us for a consultation with our experienced pediatric dental team. We can evaluate their teeth and take the necessary steps to diagnose and treat your child’s dental condition. We may want to give it more time if the x-rays show the permanent teeth are in proper alignment to push out the baby teeth.
If Jungle Roots is your child’s dental home, we will discover and note the condition during your child’s regular dental exams. If it does not need to be treated right away, we will continue to monitor and assess it during their regular exams.
In the case of a permanent tooth coming in without the loosening of the baby tooth, tooth extraction may be needed. If extraction of the baby tooth is recommended, we will explain the procedure and answer any questions that you have. Sometimes, we may use a topical numbing agent or inject numbing solution around the tooth. Your child may feel a slight pressure as the tooth comes out, as the entire tooth with the root will be removed. Extraction of the baby tooth will allow the permanent tooth to move into the space, but it may require wearing braces to assist in aligning the teeth.
No matter what your child’s dental needs are, our Jungle Roots team can provide assistance and support in a safe, secure, and comforting environment that your child can continue to go-to for all of their oral health needs! Schedule an appointment today.
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.