Simple Steps To Better Dental Health
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Featuring consumer information from Columbia School of Dental & Oral Surgery
Oral Health Made Simple: Your Prescription For Knowledge
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Q: What can be done about a hanging root from a baby fallen tooth?
January 8, 2007

In answering this question, it's important to consider the area of the mouth where this "root" is located.

In the front part of a child's mouth, it would be very unusual for the root of a baby (primary) tooth to remain if the tooth fell out normally.

If this "root" is in the upper front part of the mouth, it may not be a root. It could possibly be an extra tooth. Extra teeth can have a very odd shape and look like a root.

If you are looking in the back portion of the child's mouth, you may be seeing the remaining piece of a baby tooth. This tooth could have been broken either because of an injury or because it was weakened by decay.

In all these cases, your child should see a dentist for an examination and any necessary treatment. If left untreated, the extra or damaged tooth can adversely affect the child's oral health.

For example, if your child has a retained root, the tissues and bone around it can become infected. If this happens, the infection can spread, leading to pain and potentially to other health problems as well.

If you are seeing the remaining part of a decayed tooth, it is important to pull the tooth before it causes any problems.

It is also important to address the cause of the decay. If one tooth in a mouth is decayed, the other teeth are also at risk of decay. Therefore, you should take steps to protect the other teeth from the decay process.

A type of bacteria called Streptococcus mutans causes tooth decay. These bacteria use the sugar and carbohydrates (starches) in food to produce acid. The acid dissolves and weakens the outer protective layer of the tooth (the enamel) and causes decay.

Follow these steps at home to help prevent future tooth decay:

  • Brush at least twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Floss at least once a day.
  • Reduce the amount of sugar in the diet.
  • In particular, avoid hard candies and other sugary foods that dissolve slowly. They expose the enamel to acid for a longer period.
  • If possible, eat any sugar-containing foods with a meal. The other foods help to neutralize the acid that decays the teeth.

If decay in baby teeth is ignored, adult (permanent) teeth also will be at risk. In addition to improving oral hygiene and reducing sugar in the diet, make sure that your child sees a dentist for an examination, X-rays and dietary counseling.

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