Premature Tooth Loss in Children
Most people are born with two sets of teeth; the primary, or baby, teeth begin to erupt from your baby's gums at an average age of six months, according to the American Dental Association, though the actual age of eruption varies widely. As your child grows and develops, he will lose his baby teeth and new, permanent teeth will take their place. Permanent teeth are not supposed to shed, but at times they do for various reasons. Premature tooth loss in children should be treated immediately to avoid future dental health issues.
Average Age for Tooth Shedding
According to the American Dental Association, or ADA, most kids start losing, or shedding, their teeth around the age of 6. Wiggly teeth can appear at an even earlier age, especially if your child cut her teeth early. Children generally lose their baby teeth between the ages of 6 and 12 years old; if their teeth come out before these ages due to the natural process of shedding, it's not considered premature. The central incisors--the front teeth in both the upper and lower jaw--are usually the first primary teeth to fall out, followed by the lateral incisors, the canines and the molars. The primary teeth shed when the permanent teeth are ready to erupt; the baby teeth act as place-holders for the permanent teeth in this respect.
Reasons for Premature Loss
Injury and disease are the primary reasons why a child would lose either a baby or permanent tooth early. Periodontal disease, an inflammation and infection of the gums, can cause teeth to loosen from the jawbone if the condition is not treated until late stages. The May 2008 issue of the "Journal of the American Dental Association" reports that bone density loss that is sometimes associated with children who have diabetes can lead to premature and unexpected tooth shedding.
Mouth injuries, such as getting hit in the mouth during sports matches or games, can also lead to premature tooth loss. Accidents involving mouth trauma may also be a factor.
Bring your child to the dentist to be evaluated if he has lost either a primary tooth that was not loose or a permanent tooth. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, your child may also have sustained bone fractures or other mouth injuries that could require treatment, even if the tooth can't be replanted. Parents should retrieve the knocked-out tooth if possible and place it in a container of milk or water to keep the roots healthy until the possibility of replantation is determined. Children who have lost teeth prematurely may require spaces to be inserted into the openings so that the permanent teeth will be able to erupt normally on schedule.
Providing your child with proper dental care, including semi-yearly appointments for professional cleanings as well as the tools to brush and floss their teeth, can prevent the periodontal disease than can lead to premature tooth loss. Children who have diabetes and are at risk for decreasing bone density should undergo preventive care for osteoporosis and osteonecrosis of the jaw if needed; the child's endocrinologist or pediatrician will monitor bone density condition on a regular basis. Wearing mouthguards, helmets and other protective equipment can prevent facial trauma during sports as well.
The conditions that contribute to premature tooth loss in children can affect their lives as they grow and develop, according to Science Daily. Gum disease can lead not only to tooth loss but to increased infection throughout the body. Teeth that do not erupt properly due to space changes that occur in your child's mouth after a tooth loss can cause pain and difficulties with chewing. If abnormal tooth shedding and the underlying conditions are addressed promptly, your child will most likely grow up healthy without major dental problems.
- "Pediatrics"; Accelerated Tooth Eruption in Children With Diabetes Mellitus; Shantanu Lal, et al; May 2008
- "Journal of the American Dental Association"; Immediate and Six-Month Space Changes After Premature Loss of Primary Maxillary First Molar; Yai-Tin Lin, Wen-Hsien Lin andYng-Tzer J. Lin; March 2007
- American Dental Association: Tooth Eruption Chart
- Science Daily: Children's Premature Tooth Loss Can Affect Oral Health for Years to Come