Baby teeth aren’t just for chewing. Each one also acts as a guide for the eruption of the permanent tooth that replaces it. If a baby tooth is lost too early, the permanent tooth loses its guide. It can drift or erupt into the wrong position in the mouth. Neighboring teeth also can move or tilt into the space. This means that there may not be enough space for the permanent tooth to come in.
Dentists call baby teeth primary or deciduous teeth. Primary teeth can be lost too early for several reasons:
- They can be knocked out in a fall or other accident.
- They may need to be extracted because of severe decay that causes infection.
- They may be missing at birth.
- Some diseases or conditions can lead to early tooth loss.
Space maintainers may be used:
- If a primary tooth is lost before the permanent tooth is ready to come in
- If a permanent tooth is missing
The maintainer keeps the space open until the permanent tooth comes in.