Most adults have long forgotten the day their last baby tooth came out, but for Emily Cheeseman of England, it was like yesterday. That’s because Cheeseman just "lost" her six front baby teeth at age 28.
According to a story on Dentristry.co.uk, Cheeseman was born with hypodontia, a condition where a number of adult teeth don’t develop. In Cheeseman’s case, not only did her permanent teeth not come in, her six front baby teeth stayed put. She recently had those baby teeth removed in order to make room for new dental implants.
“There are surprisingly large numbers of people walking around with baby teeth,” says New York dentist Dr. Michael Sinkin. “I can think of half a dozen patients in my practice who have lower baby molars. Although six baby teeth in front is unusual.”
Baby teeth usually appear at around five or six months, with all 20 baby teeth usually showing up by age 2 ½. By five, the first permanent tooth comes in with most permanent teeth (with the exception of wisdom teeth) arriving at around age 12 or 13.
In most cases, the permanent tooth’s arrival heralds the demise of the baby tooth (not to mention the arrival of the tooth fairy). But if a permanent tooth doesn’t come in, Sinkin says it’s not unusual for a baby tooth to stick around.
“If the permanent tooth doesn’t develop then oftentimes, the baby tooth’s roots don’t resorb (or dissolve),” he says. “It’s very common, if they’re missing the permanent tooth, for the baby teeth to stay.”
Although Cheeseman opted to have her six front baby teeth extracted and replaced with dental implants, Sinkin says it’s actually feasible for an adult to keep a baby tooth his or her whole life.
“If a root doesn’t resorb, [the tooth] could last a person’s lifetime,” he says. “I have a 72-year-old woman who currently needs a crown on a baby tooth because of decay. She doesn’t have a permanent tooth there.”
Although hypodontia is nothing to worry about, “as long as you’re under the care of a dentist,” Sinkin says there is a chance it could be associated with certain genetic conditions (according to a 2008 study, hypodentia may also be a risk marker for epithelial ovarian cancer).
As for which teeth will likely shortchange come tooth fairy time, experts say wisdom teeth are the most common permanent teeth not to develop; after that, it’s the upper lateral incisors, the teeth on either side of your two front teeth.
“If you look at early pictures of David Bowie, you’ll see his eye teeth where the lateral incisors should be,” he says. “He subsequently had a bit of dentistry done.”
Do you still have some of your baby teeth? Or know someone who does? Tell us about it in the comments.