Children will start losing their baby teeth around the age of 4 or 5, and that process can continue for several years. This process is usually a smooth transition with the baby teeth falling out, and the permanent teeth then growing into those empty spaces.
However, one of the most common problems that may occur is when the permanent teeth come in behind the baby teeth before those baby teeth fall out. This occurrence is known as “shark teeth” or “tooth behind the tooth” because there are now two rows of teeth instead of just one.
Are Baby Teeth Important?
Even though baby teeth fall out, making sure they are healthy while they are intact is vital, and here are a few reasons why:
- Baby teeth provide a healthy start for the permanent teeth coming in after they fall out.
- Permanent teeth grow into the space that the baby teeth provide.
What is the Difference Between Baby Teeth and Permanent Teeth?
There are three distinct differences between baby teeth and permanent teeth.
- Baby teeth are usually more white than permanent teeth, and the permanent teeth tend to be more yellow.
- Baby teeth are smoother than permanent teeth. The permanent teeth have a more jagged edge which helps them push through the surface of the gums.
- The number of baby teeth that your child will have totals 20, whereas the permanent teeth total 32, which includes the wisdom teeth.
The Falling out Process
When children lose their baby teeth, it usually occurs in the following order:
- The two center bottom teeth will fall out first.
- The next teeth to fall out are the two central upper incisors.
- The lateral incisors and first molars will fall out next.
- The canine teeth will then fall out and lastly the second molars.
Why Don’t Baby Teeth Fall Out?
There are three main reasons baby teeth don’t fall out.
- When the permanent tooth starts pushing against the roots of the baby tooth, the roots begin to dissolve. Once enough of the root has dissolved away from the baby tooth, it becomes loose and should fall out. However, if the permanent tooth starts to grow in behind the baby tooth, it can miss the roots of the baby tooth which won’t trigger them to dissolve.
- The second reason baby teeth don’t fall out can be due to moderate to severe crowding preventing the permanent tooth from growing correctly.
- The last reason is the most uncommon but would be because the permanent tooth never developed.
What Should you do When Baby Teeth Don’t Fall Out
If you notice that a permanent tooth is coming in behind a baby tooth, first find out if the baby tooth is loose at all.
- If the baby tooth is even slightly loose, get your child to start wiggling it over the next few days to see if it will fall out naturally, and if it doesn’t fall out on its own, then contact your dentist for assistance.
- If the baby tooth is not loose whatsoever, contact your dentist for assistance for possible x-rays and tooth extraction.
Will the Dentist Need to Extract the Baby Tooth?
- If your child has shark teeth, and the baby tooth isn’t loose, it is likely that the dentist will extract the baby tooth.
- If your child’s permanent tooth failed to develop, the baby tooth might be used as the permanent tooth as long as it can remain healthy.
How do Permanent Teeth Come in Behind Baby Teeth?
When a permanent tooth grows directly underneath the baby tooth, it then reabsorbs the roots of the baby tooth, which then cause it to become loose and ultimately fall out. The permanent tooth then takes the place of the baby tooth.
If the permanent tooth does not grow in directly underneath the baby tooth, the root of the baby tooth will remain intact and not get pushed out as it usually would. This occurrence causes the permanent tooth to grow in behind the baby tooth giving it that shark tooth appearance. Shark teeth look concerning, but they are actually quite common and rarely cause problems.
Where Shark Teeth Usually Occur
The most common place for this process to occur is at the lower incisors, but it could happen anywhere, including the upper incisors or even the primary molars.
If the “tooth behind the tooth” does involve the lower and upper front teeth, there is a good chance it will happen to the other tooth next to that one.
When do Shark Teeth Occur?
Although shark teeth can happen at any time, they are more common during two phases of childhood development.
- The first phase is when the lower front teeth grow in around age six.
- The second phase is when the upper back molars appear around age 11.
What Should you do if the Permanent Teeth Come in Behind the Baby Teeth?
First of all, don’t panic, as this is a regular occurrence. There is no actual treatment for shark teeth because if the permanent tooth has not grown in all the way while at the same time, the baby tooth is getting looser, the situation will most likely resolve on its own.
However, if the permanent tooth continues to grow in and the baby tooth does not loosen, then you should contact us to set up an appointment, as your child may need to have the baby tooth extracted.
What Happens if you do Nothing?
If your child has permanent teeth growing behind baby teeth, the teeth will start to deflect and move out of position causing potential future orthodontic problems. To find out more and get much-needed answers, contact Children’s Dentistry of Las Vegas at any one of our many locations.