When you hear the word exfoliation, you probably think of skincare. Exfoliation also happens in dentistry, and it's the term that refers to the natural loss of a baby tooth when its root system is dissolved by the permanent adult tooth developing beneath it. What happens when the exfoliation process is disrupted by the premature loss of a baby tooth?
Ahead of Schedule
Baby teeth can be lost ahead of schedule, but this is generally due to an external influence. An accident that resulted in a blow to the jaw of sufficient strength could knock the baby tooth from its socket. Alternatively, it's possible for baby teeth to decay to the point that they're lost (or manually extracted by a dentist). It's perfectly natural for children to temporarily have a gap in their smile while an adult tooth is in the process of eruption — and yet you probably don't want your child to have a gap for an extended period of time, and neither does your child's dentist.
Reattachment Isn't an Option
Pediatric dental specialists know that there's little sense in reattaching a lost baby tooth. While this is possible with permanent adult teeth (provided the process is initiated promptly), reinserting a baby tooth back into its socket and splinting it into place will not be effective, and it poses a significant obstacle to the adult tooth that will emerge beneath it.
Keeping the Space
Maintaining the space left by the prematurely lost baby tooth is the priority. When the dental socket is empty for an extended period of time, neighboring teeth can pivot into the gap. This creates a barrier that obstructs the growth of the adult tooth that will emerge from the socket. Unable to achieve the proper vertical alignment, this tooth will often grow at an improper angle, leading to a misalignment of your child's bite. A pediatric dentist can apply a space maintainer over the dental socket (a small metal band that acts as a placeholder for the adult tooth); however, this still leaves a gap in your child's smile, which might remain for a prolonged period of time.
A Cosmetic Option
Dentures aren't just for adults who have lost permanent teeth. Pediatric partial dentures are able to act as a space maintainer while also providing a cosmetic solution for the absent tooth. These types of dentures are made of acrylic, allowing them to be cost-effective and easy to manufacture. This becomes important when you realize that your child may need several sets of dentures while their jaw grows before the adult tooth has emerged.
When a baby tooth departs ahead of schedule, it becomes crucial to have a placeholder in that empty dental socket. Pediatric partial dentures can achieve this while also concealing the fact that the tooth is missing.
If your child has lost a tooth, talk to a pediatric dental specialist for help.