submitted by Dr. Michael Spadafora, D.D.S., Bucks County Dental Design, buckscountydentaldesign.com
Being six-years-old is very exciting – kindergarten or first grade, school busses, and new friends are all part of the six-year-old experience. Another exciting aspect of being six is the first lost baby tooth and a visit from the tooth fairy.
Primary (baby) teeth play an important role in a person’s dental health. The primary tooth holds the spot open for the eruption of the permanent tooth. This place holding function is the reason dentists are so focused on treating decay in a baby tooth. When a primary tooth is removed the remaining teeth shift, often reducing the open space. This causes problems when the new tooth arrives.
When a child reaches the age of six, the roots of the primary teeth start to dissolve due to the arrival of the permanent teeth. The primary tooth becomes loose and you can often see the permanent tooth right behind it. This happens first in the lower front teeth, followed by the upper front teeth, and then finally in the back teeth. The whole process goes from the age of 6-7 to 11-12 and rarely causes any dental issues.
The role of the dentist in the process is simple. When parents are concerned that the teeth are not coming in correctly a short exam by the dentist can reassure them that these issues usually correct themselves. On rare occasions a dentist (sometimes referring the child to an orthodontist or pediatric dentist) may have to intervene to get the permanent teeth in proper position.
A couple more points – in case a tooth becomes lost (and this does happen!) the tooth fairy does accept a parent’s letter explaining the issue. Occasionally the tooth fairy misses her evening rounds. This is not a problem – she always shows up the next night. Finally, the word in dental circles is that the tooth fairy has been affected by inflation – baby teeth are commanding more money than ever before!