Does it matter what order baby teeth fall out?

By Emma Elliott

Most people receive the gift of two sets of teeth throughout their lifetime. The first set are known as ‘baby teeth’ and they start to come into the mouth at six months old. You begin to experience their loss at around 6 years old, gradually having your baby teeth replaced by your ‘adult’ or ‘permanent’ teeth.  In an ideal world the baby teeth are lost in a certain order, as this allows your adult teeth to fill the gaps correctly and give you straighter teeth as an adult.

When an adult tooth is finished growing and is ready to erupt into the mouth it ‘pushes’ into the root of the baby tooth, wearing away the root so the baby tooth is pushed out. You may have noticed when you lost baby teeth that there was no root attached to them, and this is why. Adult teeth are generally ready to erupt in a certain order, starting at 6/7 years old and ending with our wisdom teeth at roughly 20 years old. Baby teeth are lost as part of normal development and the order of their loss is determined by the development of the adult teeth.

There are a few instances in which baby teeth are lost in the wrong order and this can cause problems. Certain diseases such as tooth decay can result in early loss of the baby teeth and can confuse the adult teeth at a later stage. The adult tooth uses guidance provided by the roots of the baby tooth to come out, if a baby tooth is lost early it can come out in the wrong place or get stuck. This can result in a need for braces to move the adult teeth or to close gaps left by ‘stuck teeth’ that were unable to erupt properly.

Baby teeth not falling out at all can also indicate problems with the developing adult teeth. In some cases people might be missing an adult version of a tooth and without the ‘push’ of an adult tooth from underneath it, a baby tooth can stay in the mouth permanently. In other cases, an adult version of the tooth might be developing, but in the wrong place and so doesn’t ‘push’ on the baby tooth to replace it. This often happens with the canines in your top jaw – these are known as the ‘eye teeth’ as they begin developing just underneath the eye in your skull and then have to travel down to your mouth. This is quite a long way to go! In 2% of people canines can get ‘lost’ and ‘stuck’ on the way. In these cases, people keep their baby canine tooth for much longer and often require hospital treatment with braces to put the adult tooth back in the right place.

In most individuals, baby teeth are lost in a staged order when the adult teeth are ready and so the order in which they fall out is normal for that person. However, early loss can affect the position of the adult teeth and if the adult teeth are developing in the wrong position then baby teeth can be kept in the mouth for longer than intended.