Often when parents bring young children into our office for initial evaluation, they are missing several primary teeth. Parents are worried that starting treatment won’t be an option until all the permanent teeth have grown in, or until all baby teeth have fallen out. It’s common to wonder if your child is losing teeth at the right time, or too slowly, or even too quickly. These concerns are normal, and a reason why it’s good to get your child into the orthodontist starting at age seven. Orthodontist Dr. Christopher Murphy at Southern Maine Orthodontics can answer all these questions and more and can start any treatment needed early enough to prevent major issues.
When Should Your Child Start to Lose Teeth?
Most children lose their first baby tooth, or primary tooth, around age 6. This is typically the bottom front tooth. The rest of the primary teeth usually follow suit, with the last one falling out around age 12. By age 21, all 32 of the primary teeth should have been replaced by permanent teeth.
The first permanent molars, or adult teeth, arrive around age 6 as well. The rest of the permanent teeth come in gradually over the next several years. The last of the permanent teeth, the third molars, or wisdom teeth, usually arrive around age 18.
While the process of losing primary teeth and getting permanent teeth is relatively straightforward, there can be some variation in when exactly each tooth is lost or erupted. Every child is different, so if you have any concerns about your child’s teeth, be sure to talk to your dentist.
Early Treatment Orthodontics
Early treatment orthodontics refers to the practice of correcting dental and skeletal irregularities at an early age. It is well-documented that bones and teeth are more malleable during childhood, making this an ideal time to correct any problems. Early treatment can also help to improve the aesthetics of the smile and ensure that the teeth are properly aligned. In some cases, early treatment can also help to prevent future dental problems, such as gum disease and tooth decay. While early treatment is not right for every patient, it can offer significant benefits for those who are candidates.As we’ve mentioned above, it’s best to get your child in to see the orthodontist around age seven.
The Science of Tooth Movement
When you begin orthodontic treatment, your teeth will start to slowly move into the desired position. This process can sometimes take months or even years, depending on the severity of your dental problem. Teeth move very slowly. While this isn’t exactly what you want to hear when you’re self-conscious about your smile, slow movement is the best and healthiest way to perfect your bite. Tooth movement is a combination between bone cells called osteoclasts breaking down bone matter in the direction the tooth is set to move in and osteoblasts filling in bone matter behind the tooth as it moves. It is important to be patient during this treatment process, as rushing it can result in uneven or even damaged teeth. Trust your orthodontist to know when your teeth are ready to be moved, and be patient as your smile slowly becomes perfect.The teeth ideally should move about a millimeter a month during treatment. This seems like a small distance, but it is the best place to maintain health.
So, combining the information about the benefits of early orthodontic treatment and the anatomy and physiology of tooth movement is how your orthodontist is best able to adjust your bite. If you are missing teeth when treatment begins, or loose teeth during treatment, your orthodontist is an expert on timing the movement of your mouth to adjust for the new spaces tooth loss creates.