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Missing-Tooth Smile? How To Restore Your Child's Confidence

If your child has lost a baby tooth, a bit of imagination, creativity, and money under their pillow could turn a moment that tends to scare some kids into a rite of passage that's a whole lot of fun. If your child has lost a permanent tooth, it may not necessarily be a moment for celebration, but there's still a lot you can do to instill your little one with confidence, and you can work with your dental professional to figure out options for care that will make you all smile.

When Can You Expect Your Child To Lose Baby Teeth?

Children's teeth begin to loosen and fall out at about six years old, but it could take longer. Your child's bottom two and top two front teeth will often be the first to go. And then... the rest. (The lateral incisors, first molars, canines, and second molars, if you want to be a tooth fairy that knows your stuff.)

Learn about the different types of teeth here.

Losing teeth can be scary for children at first, and that's why it's important to help them see this as a moment of excitement and celebration. Let them know that this is a rite of passage that we all go through, and it's one of the many beautiful joys of growing up. And don't miss this opportunity as a great teaching moment about practicing good oral hygiene.

Not sure how to make this a moment of celebration? Check out these articles on the tooth fairy to help spark your imagination.

What To Do if Your Child Loses a Permanent Tooth

According to the American Association of Endodontists, more than 5 million teeth are knocked out in children and adults every year. But don't worry, if your child gets a permanent tooth knocked out playing sports or from another sort of accident, it's possible to save the tooth. And if your dental professional determines the real tooth can't be saved, there are replacement options for children until they're fully grown and can get implants.

How To Save a Missing Tooth

  • Be careful not to hold the tooth by its root. Only hold it by the chewing surface (the crown).
  • Contact your dentist immediately for an emergency appointment.
  • As you wait for the appointment, rinse the tooth in cool water (no soap) without scrubbing it, then place it back in your child's socket, holding it there with clean gauze or washcloth.
  • If it doesn't stay, you can also place the lost tooth in a clean container of cold milk, then head to your dentist's office as soon as possible. Your dentist may be able to graft the tooth back into its socket. Acting fast, you may be able to save the tooth and prevent infection.

The Cleveland Clinic says that teeth are likely to survive if put back in the socket within 5 minutes. Between 5 and 60 minutes, your chances are still good. After an hour, tooth survival rates drop significantly, so be sure to act promptly.

Tooth Replacement Options for Permanent Loss

Because your child is still growing, dental implants won't be an option for your child until they are at least 15 years old and have fully developed bone structures in their mouth. However, there are tooth replacement solutions available to your child in the meantime, like:

Bridges
Bridges have two crowns – one on either end – and a bridge of replacement teeth that rest in the area of the gums where there is tooth loss. The crowns at the ends of the bridge would attach to your child's healthy teeth.

Partial Dentures
If your child has more than one missing tooth and the missing teeth aren't adjacent to one another, a partial denture may be a better option than a bridge. The replacement teeth are attached to fake plastic gums and rest on top of your child's real gums. Different sections of replacement teeth can be connected by metal wire.

Retainers With Artificial Teeth
Retainers aren't just for keeping teeth straight after wearing braces. Your child can wear a retainer that contains an artificial tooth to help fill in the gap in their smile. The retainer can be a clear plastic form that rests over your child's natural teeth (like a thin, clear mouthguard) while the false tooth fits inside.

Whichever of these replacement tooth options is best for your child – they can be vital in maintaining their oral health. Gaps in areas of loss can cause your child's other teeth to begin rotating or shifting into the empty spaces, resulting in a bad bite. And missing teeth can even lead to gum disease and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.

How to Help Your Child Smile With Missing Teeth

Helping your child build a healthy level of self-confidence is an important part of parenting. When they feel good about themselves, they will be more confident, capable, and accepted in their pursuits as they learn and grow into adulthood. Here are some ways you can help lift your kid's self-esteem if they've recently lost teeth.

  • Tell stories about when other people in the family lost teeth.
  • Throw a party to celebrate their replacement teeth (other kids may even get jealous!) Just be careful your child doesn't have any hard or chewy snacks that could cause damage.
  • Help your child practice good oral hygiene and praise them when they do a good job on their own.
  • Search online for "cool kids with missing teeth" and show them the results.
  • If they have a favorite sport, there are probably athletes who have lost teeth you can tell them about. This is also a good time to teach them about mouthguards. According to the American Dental Association, an athlete is 60 times more likely to have a dental injury if they're not wearing a mouthguard.
  • Be a good role model. Let your child see you appreciating how different and eclectic people are because of their variances.
  • If you hear of another child who has lost a tooth, schedule a playdate so they can realize it's not that abnormal to lose a tooth.

Whether your child has lost a baby tooth or a permanent one, it's important to help them maintain their confidence. Losing a baby tooth is a rite of passage to be celebrated. And even losing a permanent tooth is a situation that can be resolved in a way that helps your child see that with calm, collected action, they will be able to overcome anything.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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