Losing teeth is a standard part of growing up. Your children's teeth become loose, they fall out (hopefully with minimum fuss and perhaps a visit from the tooth fairy) and are then replaced by adult teeth. It's something that you went through yourself, and even though it was a while ago, you know what to expect. Baby teeth that break apart while still in the mouth and then fall out in fragments are perhaps not what you were expecting. What can cause this to happen and how serious is it?
Not an Entirely Natural Loss
Just because a baby tooth is loose and has segmented while still in your child's mouth doesn't necessarily mean it can be considered a natural loss related to the development of a permanent tooth. If you believe that the loss of the tooth in question feels premature, it's important to see your family dentist as soon as you can. Here are some reasons why:
- Just like permanent teeth, baby teeth can become damaged by tooth decay to the point of breaking into pieces. In these cases, the tooth will usually be removed.
- An X-ray can determine the progress of the adult tooth waiting to emerge, and if this is not in the fairly immediate future, your child might require a space maintainer so that the remaining baby teeth remain in a position that doesn't deter the emergence of the adult tooth.
But what about when the baby tooth wasn't affected by decay, is becoming loose at an appropriate stage of your child's dental development, and yet is still breaking into fragments?
Is the fragmented tooth a noticeably different colour than those that surround it? A baby tooth becomes loose when its root structure is dissolved by the growth of the adult tooth beneath it, which has its own root structure. Sometimes this resorption process continues upwards into the body of the tooth, essentially corroding the pulp (the nerve) and the dentin (the hard substance that forms the bulk of the tooth). Though it sounds dramatic, it's not a cause for alarm since the tooth is due to be lost soon anyway. Baby teeth affected by resorption can appear to be pink as they are becoming partially hollow. This means that they might not fall out as a single piece and can break into fragments. Again, a trip to the dentist is recommended. The remaining fragments of the tooth will be removed to enable the adult tooth to emerge, and the fragments can be potentially hazardous. They could be swallowed when they fall out of their own accord, and the sharp edges of the fragmented tooth could irritate your child's tongue.
Hopefully, your child's baby teeth will come out intact so that the tooth fairy doesn't have to give money in instalments. Remember that fragmented baby teeth require the attention of your child's dentist.