What do your child and a crocodile have in common? Both grow new teeth when the old ones fall out! Okay, your child’s permanent teeth come in when their baby teeth fall out, so technically they only grow new teeth once. And after their 20 baby teeth fall out, 32 adult teeth replace them (whereas a crocodile could replace 8,000 teeth in their lifetime).
Unlike a crocodile, your child will need to take good care of their teeth to prevent decay. Just because they will be replaced eventually, primary teeth still play an important role in your child’s oral development – how they chew their food, help maintain your child’s facial shape, assist in their speech and of course, make them look adorable.
When Does It Start?
You can expect your child’s baby teeth to loosen around age five or six as the tooth roots dissolve, but they can start to fall out when they are as young as four or old as eight. As long as it’s not from decay or injury, they should be fine, especially if it is one of the bottom front teeth.
When a baby tooth starts to loosen, it can take a few months for it to fall out. Don’t worry if it happens when they’re eating or sleeping, and gets swallowed, it won’t harm them. Conversely, a loose tooth could hang around by a thread for weeks. We recommend letting the tooth fall out on its own and letting your child wiggle it with their tongue if they can’t resist. Just don’t force the removal in case the tooth root is still connected, you don’t want it to break and get infected. Gently brush the loose tooth to keep it clean, and if the gums are tender, you can serve them soft foods (although crunchy food could help the tooth fall out faster!).
Making It Fun
Losing a tooth is an exciting milestone for your child, much like learning to read or ride a bike. Making it a fun experience will leave you both with happy memories, especially if your child is also nervous. Let them know that everyone loses their teeth and that their adult tooth is moving up the jaw and causing the baby tooth to fall out. Reassure them they will get replacement teeth located just underneath the gums and that the baby tooth served its purpose by guiding the adult tooth into place.
Most children in the U.S. look forward to the tooth fairy visiting while they are asleep and leaving a monetary gift like a gold coin under the pillow as payment. Some parents leave construction paper fairy footsteps near their child’s bedroom window, a trail of glitter “fairy dust” on the windowsill, a note with colorful stickers from the tooth fairy (encouraging good hygiene for future healthy specimens), or a little bag or tiny pillow for the next tooth that will fall out. If it’s their first lost tooth, a fun new toothbrush instead of money is a fun idea! Losing a tooth is a big deal for your child, and making it magical will make the event fun for everyone.