Every child responds differently to the "losing first tooth" rite of passage; some are excited for the tooth fairy's first visit, whereas others are nervous about the pain. But when your child loses his or her first tooth, it means permanent, adult teeth are officially on the way. Most children lose their first baby tooth – also called a primary tooth – around six years old, and lose their last primary tooth between nine to 13 years old, per Mayo Clinic.
After your child loses their first, however, be sure to include these steps in caring for the empty socket prior to the permanent tooth's eruption.
Wipe Your Child's Gums
You probably used a sterile soft cloth or gauze to wipe your child's gums during infancy, and this is the first thing you can do after he or she loses their first tooth. In addition, have your child rinse with salt water to keep the area sterilized (it may be unpleasant, but well worth it). Then, place a gauze or cool tea bag on the socket and discourage them from spitting; this oral motion can cause more bleeding, according to the University of Texas. Bleeding should stop within 10 minutes, although call your dentist if it persists.
Use a Topical Anesthetic
Right after a tooth falls out, your child might experience some initial pain or discomfort. An over-the-counter topical anesthetic is a fast and safe way to ease this minor irritation after the bleeding has stopped. Of course, always consult your pediatric dentist should the pain continue.
Add an Anti-Inflammatory
As much as you may guide your child to avoid wiggling the loose tooth until it's ready to fall out, the fascination is natural. There may be swelling from all the agitation, though, so a dose of children's ibuprofen will help cut down on the inflammation. As always, if swelling doesn't decrease in the area in a day or so, contact your child's dentist to safeguard against infection.
Don't Brush the Socket
Some kids' permanent teeth emerge in as little as two weeks after their baby teeth fall out, according to Parents Magazine. It's also likely your child could be without teeth for a lot longer, suggests the American Dental Association (ADA), and will cut his or her first permanent teeth between seven and eight years old. Either way, the area may be tender at first, and brushing even with soft-bristled toothbrush can irritate it. Instead, have them brush their other teeth properly, but avoid those around the socket – and the socket itself – for about a day to give it time to heal.
Focus on Good Oral Care for the Whole Mouth
Poor care for primary teeth can affect the development of permanent teeth, and for a good reason. These primary teeth act as holding spaces in a person's jaw for permanent teeth to erupt, according to the University of Washington. Because the timetable for permanent-tooth eruption varies for each child, making sure your kid is practicing great, daily oral care is the best way to protect your child's teeth (and sockets) and stave off any risk of plaque buildup or early gingivitis.
Select a deep-cleaning toothpaste such as Colgate® Kids Cavity Protection, which has a welcoming fruit flavor your kids will love and provides a decay-fighting fluoride young kids can benefit from. Just as important, caring for the socket after the tooth falls out includes the same level of oral care you should teach your child to practice daily:
- Inspect his or her teeth together for any signs of continued inflammation after brushing to make sure they've done a thorough job.
- Teach your child to brush properly two times daily using a soft-bristled brush.
- Have your child floss at least once daily.
- Avoid an excess of sugary snacks.
Practicing good oral care is an important habit for all children to take up. But the best way to sail through the "losing first tooth" stage is to make sure the tooth fairy is on standby when the big moment arrives.