Most children start losing their teeth at the age of 5 to 6 years, but some may begin as early as 4 or as late as 7. The process continues until the final molars which are famously known as the wisdom teeth are out. The last of the permanent teeth erupt between the ages of 17 and 21, largely influenced by hereditary factors. If teeth start falling out before the age of 4 or the child has not lost any by 7 years, a dental review will be necessary.
The loss of baby teeth is an exciting milestone for many babies, but to some, it may be a period of worry. If your child is afraid of the process, just reassure them that everything will be alright and that they will get another set of teeth. For the excited ones, they may love to play with the wiggling tooth until it falls off. They may also look forward to the tradition of the tooth fairy. If you are not privy to the western and western-influenced cultures, the tooth fairy is a fantasy figure who visits the kids when they are asleep, takes the fallen tooth from underneath the pillow, and replaces it with a small payment.
Table of Contents
Why Do Babies Have to Lose Their Teeth?
You may be wondering, why is it that babies grow a set of teeth only for them to fall off later? The reason is simple – the jaw of a baby is too small to accommodate the set of an adult’s teeth. So then why not wait till the jawbone is fully grown? It is because the baby teeth (also known as primary teeth or deciduous teeth) help in chewing solid foods, give shape to the face, help in talking and of course, make the smiles beautiful.
As a child grows, the jawbone enlarges causing the baby teeth to loosen. As the primary teeth are loosening, their roots also dissolve at the same time to pave the way for the permanent teeth. The teeth eventually fall out as the adult teeth continuously push them upwards. After falling off, the secondary tooth pushes through the gum, and within months the tooth is fully grown. If a new tooth is not fully developed after six months, you may have to consult a dentist or oral surgeon for review.
Generally, the first teeth to erupt are first to fall off. The two central incisors start, followed by the upper central incisors, and the molars are the last.
What To Do
Most dentists recommend that you should let the teeth fall out naturally. Do not forcefully pull it out, but let nature take its course. The child may keep on shaking it, and it is okay. Just make sure that the hands are clean to prevent infections. Fortunately, losing the teeth is not usually so painful. However, if forcefully pulled out, the child may have to endure more pain and bleeding. If you feel that a tooth has become loose and is taking too long to fall off, the safest thing to do is to pay a visit to the dentist.
Sometimes the permanent teeth may come through the gum before the baby teeth have fallen. If this happens, the child may look like they have two rows of teeth and they are usually crowded. In this case, it will be best to consult an orthodontist together with a dentist.
Prepare Them Early
You never know the reaction that your child will have to losing their baby teeth. To prepare them for this phase of life, start the conversation of teeth falling off early. You can begin it when the first tooth becomes loose or even before. Explain how and why it happens. Also, do not forget to reassure them that new teeth will grow, to allay their anxiety or uncertainties. At that early age, the kids may not understand all the fine details, so take it easy and use a language that they best understand using real-life examples. Dogs also lose their baby teeth, hence, if the child has a dog pet that has lost teeth before, you can use that as an illustration.
Make It Fun
Losing teeth is certainly a memorable moment, especially for the first tooth. Making the experience fun will even make it more exciting. For the fairy tale, do not just leave some money for your kid. Add some fun by using some brilliant ideas like leaving fairy’s footsteps by the window, a note, a foreign currency note, or a small pocket for the next tooth. Other cultures have other interesting ideas like throwing the tooth in a symbolic direction and making a wish. Others bury it in a glass of water or under a tree to make the new tooth as strong as the roots while others put the tooth in fat and feed it to the dog in the hope that the new one will be as strong as the dog’s.
You should start dental hygiene even before the first teeth erupt. Continue through the period that all the teeth grow, to when they start falling out until the child has a new set of teeth. Before the first teeth have erupted, it is unwise to use a toothbrush. Hence, embrace wiping the gums with a warm cloth after feeding. Once they start coming out, take proper care to avoid tooth decay. You may wonder what this has to do with teeth falling off, but the primary teeth preserve space for the permanent ones. Improper care can lead to gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, which can negatively affect permanent teeth spacing. Furthermore, if a kid loses teeth early due to decay or as an accident, premature eruption of the adult teeth may cause misalignment due to limited space.
You can begin by gently brushing with a small amount of toothpaste, the size of a grain of rice while gradually increasing till the teeth have all erupted. By the age of two, the child should be able to use a toothbrush under supervision and by 6 years, they should be able to do it on their own. Get for them a soft toothbrush with a small head and a large handle. By encouraging your child to take care of their teeth, you will be establishing good dental habits for the permanent teeth.
The toothbrushes will also need special attention. Teach your child to keep their toothbrush always clean by rinsing with tap water after brushing and keeping it upright in a container to allow air-drying. You need to replace the toothbrush every other 3 to 4 months or when the bristles get frayed.
Schedule dental exams within six months after the eruption of the first tooth. Initiating the dental checkups this early is the best way to prevent teeth problems, and if any problems have occurred, the dentist will detect and treat them before it is too late. Remember that dental caries may occur at any point and when a tooth falls off, there is a risk of infection.
The first and second molars are usually the last to be shed. When the permanent molars start to erupt, they are usually difficult to clean and are prone to dental caries. The dentist may suggest the use of sealants on the molars. They are thin plastic coatings that prevent plaque from accumulating in the grooves of the molars.
Kids love to shake and touch their teeth once they start loosening up. This is alright, and in fact, dentists do recommend it. However, dirty hands are the source of diseases like diarrhea. Make sure that the child’s hands are always clean.
What the child eats will play a significant role in the health of the permanent teeth. Too many carbohydrates and foods with high sugars are the main culprits of tooth decay. The best thing to do is to cut back on such diets, avoid sticky, chewy foods, serve treats along with meals and not as snacks and include plenty of fruits and vegetables for the kids. Once in a while, you may allow such treats, but ensure that the kids brush their teeth immediately after. Also, never put them to bed with milk or soda bottle.
Losing baby teeth is mainly a painless process, but some kids may complain of pain, especially for the molars. Sometimes the gums may look swollen, and a child may complain that it hurts when eating. Over-the-counter painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen are handy to help ease the pain until your next dental review. The child has to continue eating a healthy diet, but if it is difficult to chew, you can serve purees, soup, porridge and other soft foods.
The kid may also avoid brushing teeth as the loose and shed teeth areas may be tender or are prone to bleeding. However, you have to insist on brushing and help the child to keep the area always clean. Reassure the child that it is a normal process which will get better within a few days. The child may also shy away from crunchy foods due to the discomfort. Encourage them to eat these foods as they fasten to help dislodge the loose tooth.
Finally, losing baby teeth for your kid is a huge and exhilarating step. To some, it may be more important than even learning how to write, swim or cycle. For this reason, making each tooth lost an unforgettable experience is the best thing that you can do for them at this stage of their life. With the suggested things to do in this article, we are sure that it will be a smooth and exciting time for you too.