While every child is different, children between the ages of 12 and 14 usually have lost all of their primary teeth and should have their adult teeth. If your pre-teen or teen still has some baby teeth left, you may be wondering if this is a cause for concern. Read on to learn more about over-retained teeth and when they are a problem.

What Causes Over-Retained Teeth?

There can be many causes of over-retained teeth, such as an infection, endocrine disorders, genetic disorders, impaction from a misaligned tooth tooth, and/or oral trauma.

Some children may simply not have developed an underlying adult tooth. Usually, incoming adult teeth will dissolve a baby tooth's root, and then the baby tooth will fall out. However, if your child doesn't have an underlying adult tooth to dissolve the primary tooth's root, then the baby tooth won't ever fall out. A dentist can take X-rays to see if this is the case for your child.

Lastly, another possible cause of an over-retained tooth is ankylosis. This is a condition where the tooth root fuses to the jaw bone—usually after an injury.

Why Are They a Problem?

If your child needs orthodontic treatment, then over-retained teeth can delay those procedures. Some children with over-retained teeth may experience pain since underlying adult teeth may be trying to erupt but have no place to go. 

How is the Issue Treated if Your Child Has an Underlying Adult Tooth?

If your child is simply a late bloomer for adult teeth, the dentist may want to just monitor the baby tooth. The dentist may encourage your child to eat crunchy foods, like nuts, popcorn, and veggies, that may be able to loosen and dislodge a stubborn baby tooth.

If the over-retained tooth is causing your child pain, then a dentist may opt for an extraction. If a tooth is over-retained because of ankylosis, then a dentist can break up the hard, bony tissue and extract the tooth. Your child may also need a space maintainer appliance so that the adult tooth underneath will have room to erupt.

What Treatments Are Available if There's No Underlying Adult Tooth?

If your child hasn't lost his or her baby tooth because there's no underlying adult tooth, then your dentist may recommend some different treatment options. Some teens may actually be able to leave their baby tooth in place until their early adulthood. As long as the tooth isn't crooked or compromised by decay, then your child may be just fine retaining the baby tooth.

If the baby tooth isn't healthy enough, then you may want to opt for an extraction. Since there will be no incoming adult tooth, your child may want to fill the gap with a restoration. To fill in the gap, your dentist may fit your child with a flipper appliance. Flippers look like retainers in that they can fit against the palate of the upper jaw, but they also contain a prosthetic tooth that could replace the missing baby tooth.

Once your child's jaws stop growing, he or she could also consider a fixed bridge or a dental implant. A dental implant is a permanent solution for a missing tooth. A dentist will place a titanium post in his or her jawline that acts like a tooth root. The post is fitted with an abutment and a false crown that can last your child a lifetime with good care.

If your child needs crowns on adjacent teeth, then he or she may want to consider a fixed bridge instead. A fixed bridge is made up of abutment crowns and a pontic, or false tooth. The bridge spans the gap and may be a more economical option than an implant.

Reach out to your dentist for more information on over-retained teeth and how to help your child get the dental care he or she needs.