For small children, losing baby teeth is as much a rite of passage as is their first day of school. It’s all part of growing up, but it can be a little uncomfortable at times. As a parent, it is helpful if you understand how the process works as well as how to help your child to remain as comfortable as possible throughout it.
The age at which your child gets their first loose tooth can vary widely. It could happen anywhere from 4 to 7 although the average is age 5 or 6. A good rule of thumb is that if your child’s baby teeth came in early, they will probably lose them sooner as well. The tooth will begin to wiggle when its soft roots start to dissolve. When they have fully disintegrated, the tooth will fall out naturally.
One question that moms and dads often ask their pediatric dentist is if there is any harm done if the child jiggles the loose tooth with their tongue to hasten the process along. Any family dentist will reply that it is totally fine for the child to do this. You might even recall being annoyed by a tooth that seemed to hang by a thread for weeks. At the same time, your family dentist will warn you against extreme measures such as tying a string around the tooth to pull it out by force. If the root is only partially dissolved, this tactic can lead to infection.
Once the tooth comes out, you will probably see that the permanent tooth has erupted through the gum. Over the next few months, it will reach its full adult size, probably much larger than the baby tooth it replaced. If your child’s mouth seems crowded, ask your pediatric dentist about it at your next appointment to see if you should consult with an orthodontist.
The process of losing baby teeth is generally painless. However, there may be times when one of the edges of your child’s loose baby tooth cuts into the gum. If this happens, encourage your child to wiggle the tooth extra vigorously with their tongue to speed things along. Another potential cause of pain happens when your child’s six-year molars start to push through. Because this can often happen at the same time baby teeth are loose, kids can experience some mild discomfort. Unless you are particularly worried, there is no reason to make an extra visit to your family dentist. The pain can be treated with over-the-counter aacetaminophen, ibuprofen or topical analgesics.
The red and swollen gums and minor tooth pain associated with baby tooth loss and six-year molars can sometimes make a child reluctant to eat. This is understandable as chewing on the affected area can be difficult. Nevertheless, it is important that your son or daughter continues to receive the proper nutrition they need. Make eating easier by serving soft foods, soups and pureed fruits. Smoothies with some added protein powder are often a big hit as well. In addition, make sure to keep up your child’s oral regimen of brushing at least twice a day and flossing regularly.
Losing baby teeth is an important part of growing up. Kids frequently compare notes on which teeth they have lost and how many as well as what kinds of gifts the Tooth Fairy leaves. If your son or daughter is a late bloomer and becomes concerned that they are one of the last ones in their class to get that all-important gummy gap, simply explain that everyone is different. They will lose their teeth when it is right for their mouth, and their body will know exactly the best time. Of course, if you have ongoing concerns or just need a little reassurance from a professional, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your pediatric dentist. They will be happy to take pictures if necessary and put your mind at ease.