Rooting for Baby Teeth: What Happens to the Roots of Baby Teeth?

Posted on: 23 March 2018

When baby teeth fall out naturally, they appear to be hollow. This gives the impression that they don't have roots or that the root is still inside the gum. Much like permanent teeth, baby teeth do have roots. However, as long as a baby, or deciduous, tooth comes out the way nature intended, most, if not all, of its root will be missing.

The Body Absorbs Baby Teeth Roots

From around the age of five or six years old, children begin to shed their baby teeth. This natural process usually starts with the lower central incisors, followed soon after by the upper central incisors. Once a baby tooth has fallen out, it usually takes about a week or so for the permanent tooth to begin its journey downwards to replace the baby tooth.

However, in order for a permanent tooth, which is already formed in the jawbone, to replace a baby tooth, a child's body must first absorb that baby tooth's root. This process initiates when a permanent tooth begins to put pressure, from behind, on the baby tooth. As a child's body resorbs a tooth's root, the tooth in question loosens in its socket until it eventually falls out.

The Minerals Are Reused Elsewhere

When a permanent tooth places pressure on the root of a baby tooth, large cells, known as "odontoclasts", move into position to begin the resorption process. The root of a baby tooth is composed of minerals, such as calcium and phosphorous. As the odontoclasts absorb a baby tooth's root, those minerals are transported into the bloodstream.

Later, the body will likely put the minerals extracted from resorped baby teeth to use in other areas, such as jawbone growth. Nothing goes to waste.

Not All Baby Teeth Fall Out

In rare cases, a permanent replacement tooth does not develop. Without the permanent tooth, the root resorption process does not begin. This is just as well since there is no tooth to replace the baby one if it falls out. However, since baby teeth are smaller and weaker than permanent teeth, it is important that patients take good care of them.

Sometimes, permanent teeth are misaligned within the jawbone. Thus, instead of causing a baby tooth root to resorb, the permanent tooth erupts alongside the baby tooth. In this case, a pediatric dentist will need to remove the baby tooth manually to allow the permanent tooth to realign.

Don't worry if your child's teeth don't appear to have roots when they fall out. Those roots have been absorbed and are now being put to use elsewhere in your child's body.