Take steps to reduce pain when your child loses their baby teeth
Losing teeth is an important milestone in a child’s life. The process of shedding baby teeth is part of a controlled process that prepares the child’s mouth for the eruption of the his permanent teeth, and ideally assures that there will be sufficient space for those teeth to come in. Losing a first tooth can carry mixed emotions with it, both for a child and his parents. This may include excitement as well as confusion and anxiety. While each child is unique in his experience, having the right advice will help you and your child prepare for that first visit (and subsequent visits) from the tooth fairy.
- prepare your child for the loss of his first tooth
- be ready to comfort and support your child
- know when to seek professional care
- remind your child of the importance of good oral hygiene
- reward your child for losing his tooth
- panic or be alarmed when the tooth falls out
- prematurely wiggle or pull a tooth for your child
- be too aggressive when caring for your child’s mouth
- ignore accidents or the early loss of a tooth
- forget to take your child to regular dental appointments
Do prepare your child for the loss of his first tooth
Children will typically lose their first tooth between the ages of 5 and 7. Most children have heard about the tooth fairy and losing teeth from an older sibling or family member. However, you can help prepare your child for the first big event by beginning to talk to them about what it means to lose a tooth and what to expect. Describe the process in positive and age-appropriate terms, explaining that their tooth will become “wiggly” and soon will fall out because his adult tooth is pushing it out to replace the baby tooth. There are many children’s books available on the subject with illustrations to help your child understand what is going on in his growing mouth. You can also prepare him by purchasing a tooth pillow for him to place his tooth in for the tooth fairy. Either way, creating excitement about this childhood milestone will help when the day actually arrives.
Do be ready to comfort and support your child
Some children describe the feeling of a loose tooth to be painful or uncomfortable. Loose teeth may cause discomfort and the gums around the tooth may become tender or swollen. This usually resolves when the tooth is lost, after tooth finally breaks free from the gum tissue holding it in. However, if your child seems to be particularly uncomfortable, you can try alleviating the pain with a cold compress to the area or giving him pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Some bleeding may be involved with the shedding process, which can be treated by holding pressure to the bleeding gums with a wet washcloth or gauze until the bleeding stops.
Do know when to seek professional care
Delayed tooth loss usually corresponds to late tooth development overall. However, some situations may cause the delay. If your youngster has not lost a tooth by the time he is 8 years old, it may be time to consult with your child’s dentist. Dental x-rays can be taken to confirm the presence of adult teeth under the gum’s surface, check whether there are any underlying problems that need to be addressed, and assist in knowing whether the dentist must intervene to help extract a stubborn tooth. A common sight that may concern parents is the presence of a double row of teeth, when a child’s permanent tooth is beginning to come in either in front or behind of the baby tooth, which has not been lost yet and may not be loose. In this case a dental professional will make the decision whether extraction of the baby tooth will be necessary or whether it is more appropriate to encourage the child to wiggle his tooth out and take a “wait and see” approach.
Do remind your child of the importance of good oral hygiene
The loss of a first tooth is a great opportunity to remind your youngster about the importance of his “forever teeth.” These teeth are his valuable second set of teeth that will not be replaced. Therefore, it is necessary for him to brush all of his teeth thoroughly at least two times a day for two minutes and floss between the teeth that contact each other. An adult should always supervise or help your child with his oral hygiene until he is able to do it properly by himself. Finally, regular dental check ups are crucial so that the dentist can help your kid improve his oral hygiene in order to prevent dental disease or can recommend the proper treatment of any problems before they turn into larger issues.
Do reward your child for losing his tooth
It is an exciting time and all part of the growing-up process. While some children may fret about a loose tooth, your child should be encouraged to wiggle it so that it can come out on its own. This will promote a more positive experience, especially when coupled with praise and rewards. Before long, your child will be excited to lose another tooth. Hold onto his first baby tooth as a keepsake and document everything – you will realize that your baby’s face will change the more new teeth replace his first set.
Do not panic or be alarmed when the tooth falls out
A primary tooth that has just fallen out due to the natural resorption process may have an unexpected or irregular appearance. This is because as the permanent tooth develops and moves through the gums into the mouth, it will push along the root of the baby tooth in its way, causing the primary tooth root to resorb. This is what makes the tooth become loose. It will become progressively looser as more the root dissolves, which is why the tooth may look stub-like or hollow once it finally comes out.
It’s important to also know that primary teeth and permanent teeth are very different in appearance. Permanent teeth are much larger and darker than the teeth that they replace. They may also have deep ridges on the edges, called mammelons, which is part of the anatomy of a new adult tooth before being worn down with use. In addition to that, the buds of permanent teeth start out in a different spot than the primary teeth. Essentially your child will be growing into his teeth, so don’t be concerned if the new tooth doesn’t appear in line with the rest of the baby teeth. Remember that your child is now in a transitional period where teeth are coming and going and can look awkward until your child is finished replacing his teeth. This early transition phase is also fondly called the “Ugly Duckling” period. Take comfort in the fact that most children go through this awkward phase.
Do not prematurely wiggle or pull a tooth for your child
Encourage your child to gently push a loose tooth with his finger or tongue. You don’t want to prematurely wiggle or pull their tooth out. Only your child will know his pain threshold and how much he can push the tooth around. Thus you do not want to cause unnecessary discomfort or risk leaving a fragment of the tooth behind which can potentially lead to infection. Occasionally an accident may knock a tooth out early or make an extraction necessary, but only a dental professional should make that determination and remove the teeth safely.
Do not be too aggressive when caring for your child’s mouth
After losing a tooth, your child may have a small wound in the area. Be careful not to give your child any harsh rinses that contain alcohol and never have him rinse with peroxide. This may harm his gums and delay healing. Also, never apply aspirin directly to the gums as this can cause burns to the tissue. Be gentle. Your child’s gums will naturally heal with regular, gentle brushing and a soft diet.
Do not ignore accidents or the early loss of a tooth
Baby teeth have a specific purpose. Aside from allowing your child to properly eat and speak they also hold the space necessary for the permanent teeth to erupt. When teeth are lost early, other teeth may try to move into the space and potentially crowd out the replacement permanent tooth before it comes in. Therefore in some cases, an artificial space maintainer may be needed to hold the space for the permanent tooth when it is ready to push into the mouth. This can shorten or even prevent orthodontic treatment in the future. Your child’s dentist will determine the need for one and will explain which appliance may be right for your little one. Don’t forget that baby teeth are valuable and contribute to your child’s overall well being. Always consult with a dentist following any accident.
Do not forget to take your child to regular dental appointments
Many dental issues involving the exfoliation of primary teeth are found upon routine examination, preventing long-term problems. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends taking your baby for his first dental exam by the time of his first birthday. You should follow up with routine visits every six months. It will help you anticipate what to expect while your baby is transitioning from an infant to an adult and give you the right preparation on how to care for your growing child’s teeth. Losing teeth begins on average at age 6 and is a dynamic process that continues until the child is 12 or 13 years old. Preventing cavities and infections, along with monitoring problems of tooth crowding or malocclusion will be important as the new teeth erupt. A Pediatric Dentist is specialized in treating dental needs specific to children whereas a General Dentist treats patients of all ages.
One of the hallmark signs your child is growing up is when he loses his first tooth. With the right knowledge and foresight you can have it be a positive experience. Sharing in the excitement is as much a joy for you as it is for your little one. Baby teeth play an important role and pave the way for a healthy adult smile. It’s a process that is dynamic and lasts for years. Take a lot of pictures and document this transition – before long you won’t recognize your baby’s face as it matures.