Losing baby teeth is a rite of passage for kids, and makes them feel like they're truly growing up. Typically, your child starts to discover "wiggly teeth" around the age of five or six. Some children, however, start losing their primary set later. It's important that they understand it's perfectly normal. This can be a very exciting time for your child and it helps to have a few good tips to get everyone through the process.
The process of losing baby teeth begins as the permanent teeth start to dissolve or resorb the roots. This happens gradually; once a tooth starts to loosen, it may take a few months for it to finally fall out. Once a tooth comes out, it will appear smaller out of the mouth due to this root resorption. Usually, the first teeth to come out are the two lower front teeth, or central incisors. This occurs around five or six, according to Parents magazine, but it can be delayed until the age of eight depending on when the first baby teeth erupt. If your child was a late teether, his or her permanent teeth will probably erupt later as well.
When It Comes Loose
To be prepared for your child to lose baby teeth, visit a dentist regularly beginning at age one. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), a dental visit at this age is a "well baby checkup." In addition to looking for decay and other dental problems, the dental office will recommend a preventative schedule to monitor your child's baby teeth at home. It may even be at one of these dental visits that a wiggly tooth is discovered! Once this occurs, continue to:
- maintain normal brushing and flossing.
- encourage your child to personally remove the tooth, but only if it is extremely loose.
- reassure him that they're not the only ones; it's normal to be "toothless" for a while.
If the tooth is not extremely loose, kids will inevitably wiggle it with their tongues, expediting the process. But it is important to note that the resorption process happens at its own pace, and it is never recommended to tie floss or string around a tooth to pull it out. On the other hand, if the baby tooth is very loose, it can be uncomfortable for your child to eat and brush. In this instance, it's perfectly acceptable to try to help your child finish the job at its final stages.
What to Do
When your child's loose tooth gets even looser, the best course of action is to get it out! Whether he is brave or squeamish, some parental guidance will be necessary. Once the tooth is out, there may be some light bleeding from the gums. This bleeding should stop in a few minutes and the area may appear irritated for a day or two.
Some tips for before and after losing a tooth include:
- removing it with clean fingers or a moistened gauze.
- reducing the bleeding with pressure from tissue or gauze in the area for just a few minutes.
- brushing the area gently for a day or two.
Be sure to call the dentist if the bleeding doesn't stop, or any portion of the baby tooth remains in the socket. Above all, focus on good oral hygiene during this process. Losing baby teeth indicates that your child is maturing and his permanent teeth are ready to erupt. Children at this age should be brushing with a toothpaste that contains fluoride for its cavity fighting benefits. Toothbrushes like the Colgate® Kids series feature their favorite characters and come with matching toothpastes that only make brushing more fun.
What's next? Your child will lose 20 baby teeth over five to seven years and show signs of beautiful jaw growth over that time. The loss of baby teeth happens over a long period, but it is an exciting time for the child. For parents and guardians, it's a time of good oral hygiene. During this time, maintain regular dental visits to monitor permanent teeth eruption and receive preventive treatments like scaling and polishing the teeth and fluoride application. Remember that after your child loses each baby tooth, the adult set need to be able to provide a lifetime of chewing, speaking and smiling.
About the author: Donna Rounsaville, RDH, BS, has been a dental hygienist in private practice for 31 years. She has used her experience with the prevention of dental problems and the importance of healthy eating to educate children in local schools in her hometown of Flemington, New Jersey. Donna is passionate about infection control and office safety for dental workers, providing yearly training to her office colleagues. Active with the Girl Scouts as a leader and with children's liturgy at her church, Donna uses her communication and leadership skills to motivate young people in her community. She has been writing for Colgate since 2013.