Adults with Baby Teeth

Causes & Treatment Options

November 15, 2023 Written By: Joyce Kahng, DDS

Do you have teeth that don’t want to grow up? If so, you’re not alone. Many adults retain primary (or baby) teeth longer than they should, which can lead to an array of oral health problems if left untreated. While there are various causes for retaining primary teeth, the most common include genetics and environmental issues – such as tooth decay or trauma.

Fortunately, today’s dentists have a number of treatment options available that can help ensure your smile looks its best! Read on to learn more about the causes behind retained primary teeth and its potential treatment options.

Normal Tooth Development in Children

From the moment a child is born, parents anxiously await the arrival of their baby’s first tooth. As babies grow and develop, their tiny baby teeth begin to emerge, marking an exciting milestone in their development.

However, it’s not uncommon for certain baby teeth to stick around longer than they should. Retained primary teeth can occur for various reasons, potentially causing problems in proper tooth alignment and oral health.

That’s why monitoring your child’s tooth development is crucial. From ensuring proper baby teeth eruption to tracking the transition to permanent teeth, staying on top of your child’s dental health from an early age is important.

Causes of Baby Teeth in Adults

In some cases, baby teeth can persist into adulthood. Known as over-retained primary teeth, this phenomenon occurs when the permanent tooth that is supposed to replace the baby tooth never develops, leaving the primary tooth with no impetus to loosen and fall out.

What are the causes of this interesting yet unusual occurrence?

Tooth Agenesis

The most common reason for retaining baby teeth into adulthood is the absence of permanent successors. In a typical sequence, permanent teeth develop beneath the gums and gradually push out the baby teeth above them, leading to natural tooth loss during childhood.

Tooth agenesis is a condition characterized by missing teeth. More often than not, the permanent teeth are absent. Picture this: our permanent teeth are like an eviction notice for our baby teeth. As soon as they grow, the baby teeth get the hint and make way.

Now, imagine if this eviction notice never arrives. The baby teeth, being the happy settlers they are, decide to continue their stay! That’s exactly what happens in cases of tooth agenesis. For some reason, the permanent teeth don’t show up, which allows the baby teeth to continue their occupancy, a phenomenon we see in over-retained primary teeth.

Dental Injuries or Infections

We’re all familiar with the random accidents in the playground or a nasty fall that can result in a damaged tooth. Sometimes, these dental injuries or infections can play a surprising role in a baby’s teeth that overstay their welcome.

A significant injury or severe infection can disrupt the normal tooth development process. This disruption could lead to a permanent tooth taking a rain check on its appearance, granting an extended lease to the baby tooth.

Remember, while this occurrence is rare, it reminds us how delicate and interconnected our oral health processes are. So, the next time you’re tempted to skip a mouthguard during that friendly football game or ignore a toothache, remember – your adult teeth are counting on you!

Dental Ankylosis

Let’s dive into another puzzling condition known as ankylosis, which occurs when a tooth goes rogue and fuses itself directly to your jawbone! This strange bonding process can prevent the incoming permanent tooth from making its grand entrance on stage. The result? Well, our friendly baby tooth gets to extend its stay.

Ankylosis can be a real party pooper for the long-awaited arrival of the permanent tooth, leading to an over-retained baby tooth. While this occurrence might sound like something from a science fiction movie, it’s a reality for some individuals.

It’s important to remember that modern dental professionals have the knowledge and tools to handle such situations. So, while our teeth may throw us a curveball every now and then, we’re definitely not alone in the game!

Impacted Successor Teeth

Imagine your successor teeth (the permanent teeth that are supposed to come in and gently nudge your baby teeth aside) are all set for their big debut, but – plot twist – they’re impacted! This means they’re unable to break through the surface and actually take their rightful place in your mouth. It’s like being all dressed up with nowhere to go.

So, what happens next? Your baby teeth decide to stick around longer than expected. It’s not ideal, but rest assured, it’s nothing your dentist can’t handle. With their expertise and your patience, even impacted successor teeth can be dealt with effectively!


In some scenarios, the reason behind baby teeth overstaying their welcome might be written in our DNA. You heard it right – genetics may play a part in this dental drama.

Just like genetics can determine the color of our eyes or the texture of our hair, they can also influence the length of baby teeth’s tenure in our mouths. Some inherit the trait of retaining baby teeth from their parents or grandparents.

If you’re one of the select few who experience this, it’s not a predicament without a solution. Dental professionals, armed with their comprehensive knowledge and state-of-the-art tools, are more than equipped to manage any genetic curveballs your smile may throw.

Dental or Orthodontic Treatments

Here’s another interesting fact about dentistry: dental experts sometimes intentionally opt to retain baby teeth, especially when the permanent ones skip the party.

In some instances, if the permanent teeth are missing or delayed, your dentist or orthodontist might choose to keep the baby teeth around a little longer. It’s a strategic decision made with your best dental health in mind.

This approach helps maintain the structure and functionality of your mouth and ensures that your smile continues to shine brilliantly.

Other Reasons Behind Baby Teeth in Adults

Genetics and environmental factors can sometimes influence the odds of retaining baby teeth. For instance, certain conditions such as cleidocranial dysplasia, Down syndrome, and cleft lip and palate have been linked to this unique dental characteristic.

It’s yet another demonstration of the complex interplay between our genes and environment that determines so much about us, including the makeup of our smiles.

The Challenges of Having Baby Teeth as an Adult

Discover the issues that come with having baby teeth as an adult:

  • Aesthetic Worries: Smaller baby teeth can make you self-conscious about your smile.
  • Functional Difficulties: Difficulty biting, chewing, or speaking can arise from retained primary teeth.
  • Dental Health Concerns: Baby teeth are more prone to decay, gum disease, and premature tooth loss.
  • Misalignment and Bite Problems: Baby teeth can cause adult teeth to become misaligned, leading to bite issues.
  • TMJ Disorders: Abnormalities in dental structure can result in pain and TMJ disorders.

Not only do adults with baby teeth face physical challenges, but they can also experience psychological impacts. Feelings of embarrassment and concerns about appearance can affect self-esteem and social interactions.

It’s crucial for individuals to discuss these feelings with dental professionals, who can provide solutions and strategies to cope with the difficulties.

Treatment Options for Adults With Baby Teeth

When faced with the dilemma of retained primary teeth in adulthood, several treatment options can come to the rescue:

Observation and Monitoring

How it Works: Regularly check the baby’s tooth without immediate intervention. Dentists will monitor its condition and how it affects the surrounding teeth.

  • Pros: Non-invasive, cost-effective.
  • Cons: Potential issues might progress if not treated early.
  • Cost & Duration: It is relatively low cost but requires periodic dental visits.

Extraction and Replacement

How it Works: The baby tooth is removed, followed by replacing it with implants, bridges, or dentures.

  • Pros: It provides a permanent solution and restores normal dental function and aesthetics.
  • Cons: More invasive; potential complications post-surgery.
  • Cost & Duration: Cost varies based on replacement choice; procedure duration and recovery time can vary.

Orthodontic Treatment

How it Works: Dentists might recommend braces or aligners to move the permanent teeth into the correct positions.

  • Pros: Addresses root causes like misalignment.
  • Cons: Time-consuming; potential discomfort.
  • Cost & Duration: Orthodontic treatments can be costly; treatment usually spans months to years.

Surgical Intervention

How it Works: Surgical procedures are recommended to remove impacted teeth or rectify jaw abnormalities.

  • Pros: Addresses severe underlying issues; offers a definitive solution.
  • Cons: Highly invasive; potential surgical complications.
  • Cost & Duration: Surgical options can be on the higher end; recovery times vary based on the complexity.

Choosing the Right Treatment

Making the right choice for your dental treatment requires careful consideration. Researching options and consulting with your dentist are essential first steps.

Remember, your budget is an important factor, but your long-term health should always take precedence. The latest trend in dentistry leans towards personalized treatment plans that consider individual genetic and environmental factors. This approach ensures that the treatment you receive is not only effective but also explicitly tailored to your needs.

Preventing Retained Primary Teeth

Regular dental visits are key in preventing the retention of primary teeth. Through early detection methods like X-rays, dentists can identify any abnormalities in the development of your teeth. This early diagnosis can save you from many complications later on. It’s always wise to address any dental issues promptly.

Maintaining a regime of good oral hygiene is also essential. Remember, your teeth need care and attention to stay strong and healthy. So, brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash consistently should be part of your routine. This will keep your teeth and gums in top shape and contribute to their long-term health and strength.

Maintenance and Care

A vital part of ensuring your oral health is the care you put in after any treatment.

Post-treatment Care

Always listen to your dentist’s advice following any procedure. Their instructions are tailored to your specific situation to ensure the best recovery and long-term results.

Choose the Right Dental Products

Not all toothbrushes, floss, and mouthwashes are created equal. Certain products are designed for special dental needs. Don’t hesitate to ask your dentist for recommendations to ensure you use the most suitable products for your oral health condition.

Avoid Harmful Habits

We all have habits that, while seemingly harmless, can cause considerable damage to our teeth. From biting hard objects to grinding our teeth, these practices can harm even the healthiest of smiles. Identifying and refraining from these habits is crucial to protecting your teeth and keeping your smile shining brightly.

Adults with Baby Teeth: Unique Challenges, Tailored Solutions

Adults who still have their baby teeth (over-retained primary teeth) face unique challenges. These challenges can affect both their oral health and personal confidence. However, it’s important to remember that several treatment options are available to help manage and overcome these issues.

Proactive care is the key. Regular check-ins with trusted dental professionals can help monitor and maintain your oral health. They can provide advice and treatment tailored to your specific needs and circumstances.

Prioritizing your dental health not only ensures a radiant smile but also plays a crucial role in boosting your overall well-being. Remember that every individual’s dental journey is unique. So always seek personalized, professional advice for the best outcome. Take the time to understand your dental health and make informed decisions. After all, a healthy smile is a happy smile!

Smile Smarter,
Dr. Joyce

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