Guiding Children Through the Loss of Their First Tooth

Most children love the thrill of waking up to a gift from the Tooth Fairy under their pillow. But, as a parent, it can be tough to know the proper way to help your child when his or her primary tooth is loose and ready to come out.

Knowing what is going on in your child’s mouth can be a helpful place to start. Children have 20 primary teeth, which are often referred to as “baby teeth.” Around age 6, permanent teeth begin to push their way through the gums while primary teeth become loose and fall out. By around age 13, your child will have most, if not all, of his or her permanent teeth.

As the permanent teeth erupt into the mouth, the roots of the baby teeth are gradually dissolved by a process called resorption. When there is only a tiny amount of tissue holding them in place, children tend to wiggle the loose tooth with their fingers or tongue. Often, this is all it takes to make the tooth fall out.

If a baby tooth is only slightly loose, you and your child should leave it alone until more of the root dissolves and the tooth becomes less rigid. If a tooth is very loose but won’t come out, you can help your child pull it out by using a tissue or piece of gauze. Grasp the tooth firmly and as you pull, give it a quick twist. A little bleeding will be normal and should stop within a minute or two. Biting on a damp cloth or piece of gauze will help it stop sooner.

Sometimes small fragments of root that weren’t completely dissolved break off and remain in the tissue. These fragments usually work their way out over time. If the remaining pieces cause swelling, redness or pain, contact your dentist.

Finally, if you or your child isn’t able to remove the loose tooth, you may want to consult your child’s dentist about having the tooth extracted.

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