Baby teeth, also known as deciduous or primary teeth, typically fall out and are replaced by adult teeth by the time an individual reaches the age of 12 or 13; however, this may not necessarily be the case for everyone. Primary teeth may remain in situ as a result of overcrowding, an obstruction, ankylosis of the primary teeth and numerous other reasons. The retained primary teeth may prevent the adult teeth from erupting, and may stay lodged in the gum tissue. This article will explore how retained primary teeth are identified and the treatment options available.

X-Ray Identification Of Retained Primary Teeth

Differentiating between retained primary teeth and erupted adult teeth can be difficult for those without any dental background. Most dentists recommend booking a dental appointment every 6 months. During the dental appointment, the dentists will perform a thorough visual examination. Any teeth that are suspected to be retained primary teeth will be have their identities confirmed with x-ray identification.

Primary teeth not only look different than adult teeth, but will also have different roots. From the roots, the dentists will be able to determine the underlying cause behind why the primary teeth have yet to erupt. 

Retaining Or Modifying?

If the primary teeth still have roots and crowns that are in good condition, the best option at the moment may be to simply retain the primary teeth for the time being without taking them out. Depending on the appearance of the primary teeth and the condition that they may be in, some dentists may recommend getting composite veneers or simply reshaping the teeth so that they fit in better with the patient's smile.

Extraction With Space Closure vs. Extraction With Prosthetic Replacement

If primary teeth are identified but either the crown or the root is not in good condition, patients will typically have two options: an extraction with space closure or an extraction with prosthetic replacement. Extraction with space closure is typically recommended if there is crowding. After the primary teeth are extracted, space closure can be achieved through orthodontics. Crowding can cause teeth to become crooked and may also decrease the expected lifespan of the adult teeth.

Extraction with prosthetic replacement is typically recommended if the primary teeth are experiencing root resorption. In these situations, the arch is typically aligned. Once the primary teeth have been extracted, dental implants will be fixed into the position and finished off with a crown. 


Adults who have retained primary teeth do not need to worry, as the three simple fixes mentioned above will correct the situation. Retained primary teeth is not necessarily an indication of any dental problems, and at times, they may not even need to be extracted. Speak with a dentist to determine what the best course of action may be.