As a parent, you know exactly what to do if your child skins a knee or gets a splinter, but when they come to you with a knocked out tooth, it’s hard not to panic! As a pediatric dentist in Brooklyn, we see a lot of kids with baby teeth that are knocked out. While this can be traumatic for kids and parents alike, the good news is that it’s nowhere near as serious as losing an adult tooth. Here’s what you should know.
Losing a Baby Tooth Early
It’s rare that a baby tooth would fall out too early on its own; baby teeth naturally fall out when it’s time for the adult teeth to erupt. The most common reasons for losing a baby tooth too soon are decay and dental trauma.
Sometimes, a tooth has a severe, deep cavity that cannot be addressed with a dental filling or no-drill cavity treatment. We might recommend a baby tooth root canal or dental crown so your child can keep their natural tooth, or you may opt to have the tooth extracted.
In cases of dental injury, a tooth may either be so badly damaged that it must be extracted, or it could be knocked out from the trauma. It’s certainly a shock to parents when this happens, but because baby teeth don’t have a long root holding them in place like an adult tooth, it isn’t that uncommon for them to be knocked out due to an accident or fall. Unfortunately, knocked out baby teeth cannot be put back in, so you’ll have to save them for the tooth fairy!
What Pediatric Dentists Do When Baby Teeth Are Lost Too Early
There are two options when a tooth is lost too soon: we can do nothing or we can provide your child with a space maintainer.
We would only recommend doing nothing if your child is around the age when we might expect their adult tooth to soon erupt. To determine if this is the case, we’ll look at your child’s dental history, including when their baby teeth erupted, which of their adult teeth have erupted, and recent x-rays. This information will help us come up with a rough estimate for when the adult tooth is likely to emerge.
If we determine that the adult tooth won’t be erupting for quite a while, we’ll recommend the placement of a space maintainer. This is a small orthodontic appliance that fills in the gap where the lost tooth once was, holding space open for the adult tooth to erupt. Without a space maintainer, the two teeth on either side of the missing tooth are likely to drift into the newly created space, which can cause serious (and costly) orthodontic issues in the future. Space maintainers are an inexpensive, non-invasive way to prevent this from occurring.