Baby Teeth as an Adult: Causes, Treatment, and More
Clinical content featured by Byte is reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to help ensure clinical accuracy.
We follow strict sourcing guidelines and each page contains a full list of sources for complete transparency.
Table of Contents
- What are Adult Baby Teeth?
- Potential Risks
- Frequently Asked Questions
Children begin life with nearly fully formed baby teeth, 20 of them. Also called primary teeth, these teeth are the first set of teeth to grow.
They aren’t permanent and usually start falling out at 6 or 7 years of age. Their phased shedding continues throughout childhood, making room for permanent teeth to erupt. Most children lose their last baby teeth by the time they turn 13.
But some people keep their healthy baby teeth into adulthood.
What Are Adult Baby Teeth?
An adult baby tooth is a primary tooth that fails to fall out during childhood. Instead, it remains in place during adulthood.
Causes of Adult Baby Teeth
Studies have linked baby tooth retention to factors such as:
- Absence of a permanent replacement
- Impacted successor teeth
- Movement of successor teeth
- Dental diseases
Ankylosis Absence of a Permanent Replacement
Most people have all 32 permanent teeth in place by age 21. When these teeth come in, they push out and replace the baby teeth.
In some cases, people fail to develop one or more adult teeth, usually because of birth defects. With nothing to push them out, the baby teeth that sit above these missing teeth may remain in place into adulthood.
Absence of successor teeth is the most common cause of adult baby teeth. Up to 8 percent of the U.S. population experiences hypodontia, which is one to five congenitally missing teeth. (Less than 1 percent of people have oligodontia, six or more congenitally missing teeth.)
Impacted Successor Teeth
Movement of the Successor Teeth
Diseases that affect the tissues surrounding a baby tooth can cause impaction of the successor tooth. Among them are:
- Gum disease
- Dental caries
An over-retained baby tooth may not cause any functional or cosmetic issues. In these cases, the baby tooth can be kept as long as it remains healthy.
However, baby teeth are still anomalies in adult mouths. They can cause various dental problems if untreated. Watch out for the following issues if you have retained baby teeth:
- Infraocclusion. This occurs when the biting surface of the smaller adult baby tooth is unable to make contact with the opposing adult tooth. Ankylosis of the baby teeth can cause this problem.
- Gaps between your teeth (diastema). These gaps can affect the appearance of your smile and may cause difficulties with eating and speaking.
- Root resorption. The root of a retained baby tooth may eventually be reabsorbed into the jawbone. This results in tooth loss.
- Occlusal trauma. A retained primary tooth and its opposing permanent tooth often do not align properly when your jaws close. This mismatch can cause damage to your teeth when you chew.
Available interventions for retained baby teeth include:
- Extraction. Extracting adult baby teeth can eliminate overcrowding and help align teeth. This is only done when the space that the baby tooth will leave behind can be immediately filled by another tooth or a prosthetic.
- Prosthetics. Artificial replacements for extracted baby teeth can help improve aesthetics and function. Options include dental implants and bridges.
Speak with your dentist or orthodontist about how each treatment option may impact your dental health and treatment needs in the future. Some options may be better suited to you than others.
Frequently Asked Questions
How common is it for adults to still have baby teeth?
Can baby teeth stay forever?
What happens if a baby tooth doesn't fall out?
Sometimes an over-retained baby tooth can function well with no discomfort or esthetic issues. When this happens, the tooth can be left in place. In other cases, it may need to be removed to prevent problems like crowding or damage to your other teeth.
If a baby tooth remains healthy and does not cause any problems, they can remain in place for a person’s entire life.
Eruption Charts. (2022). American Dental Association.
An Evaluation of Factors Associated With Persistent Primary Teeth. (April 2012). European Journal of Orthodontics.
Tooth Agenesis. (2021). National Organization for Rare Disorders.
Retention of Primary Second Molars Without a Permanent Successor: A Review Article. (November 2018). International Journal of Medical Research & Health Sciences.
New Teeth From Old: Treatment Options for Retained Primary Teeth. (October 2009). British Dental Journal.
Her Baby Teeth are Finally Gone -- at Age 28? (July 28). NBCNews.
Famlial nonsyndromic oligodontia. (September 2012). Contemporary Clinical Dentistry.