When we talk about kids losing teeth, one of the first things that comes to mind is the tooth fairy legend. This comforting and whimsical story eases the experience of losing a tooth for children and adds a touch of magic to a common childhood occurrence. However, it is our responsibility to understand this natural process and accompany our children, ensuring complete care is provided to secure their current and future oral health.
In this article, we will first present the background and theoretical aspects of tooth loss and then detail the behaviors to adopt when our children begin to lose their teeth.
Understanding the Basics
First, remember that children have 20 primary teeth, which begin to appear at around six months of age, gradually losing them. These teeth will then be replaced by the 28 (32 with wisdom teeth) permanent teeth. They are tinier and whiter than permanent teeth. And despite being temporary, the primary teeth play a significant role in children’s oral development and influence the health of the permanent teeth.
When it comes to primary teeth eruption and loss, the image below illustrates a very simple timeline.
The process of primary teeth becoming loose and falling out is called exfoliation. It’s a natural part of a child’s development, usually beginning around six and continuing into the early teenage years.
Signs that Your Child is Losing a Tooth
After understanding the basic concepts, the second most useful thing to know is recognizing the signs that your child is losing a tooth. To simplify things, we will categorize them below:
- Loose Tooth: The most obvious sign is simply the mobility of the tooth, which your child will feel with their tongue or fingers and will likely inform you about. This mobility is generally not painful, just uncomfortable.
- Gum Sensitivity: The gum around the tooth your child is about to lose can sometimes become red and swollen, and it may be uncomfortable during eating or brushing.
- Complaints of Discomfort: Your child might mention that their tooth feels sore or hurts, especially when they eat or brush their teeth.
- A New Tooth Erupting: In some cases, you might notice the permanent tooth beginning to emerge behind or in front of the tooth that’s about to be lost.
Recognizing these signs is important to support and guide your child properly. This is also essential for maintaining good oral hygiene and ensuring a smooth transition to permanent teeth.
Tips for Easing Discomfort
Next, a question we all surely ask ourselves: How do we alleviate the discomfort caused by the loss of teeth and make the experience as smooth as possible for our children?
- First, avoid hard or sticky foods that could further irritate the loose tooth or gums to minimize the discomfort as much as possible.
- Also, advise gentle brushing around the loose tooth to avoid irritating the surrounding tissues or moving the tooth further.
- In case of irritated gums, you can prepare a warm saltwater rinse for your child to help soothe it. A teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water, and that’s it. Your child can simply gargle with it for 30 seconds before spitting it out.
- If your child complains of mild pain, alleviate it by applying cold water compresses to the tissues surrounding the tooth. Over-the-counter pain relievers can also help after consulting with a healthcare professional for proper guidance.
- If the discomfort is too severe or debilitating, or if you notice signs of infection, do not hesitate to consult a pediatric dentist for professional guidance.
The importance of encouraging Proper Oral Care
Contrary to what many believe, the presence and health of primary teeth are as significant as permanent teeth. In fact, if good oral hygiene is not maintained, and if baby teeth become decayed or damaged and are lost or extracted prematurely, it could lead to disruptions in the eruption of permanent teeth, potential crowding, and other unpleasant complications.
Therefore, it is very important to maintain good oral hygiene during the loss of primary teeth, which lasts from the age of 6 and continues into adolescence. Also, regularly schedule a visit to your trusted and experienced kids dentist every six months to monitor the health and loss of primary teeth and the development of permanent teeth.
On a less scientific and more psychological and mindful parenting note, teeth loss can be turned into a nice and highly anticipated experience if you associate it with an enjoyable activity for your child. One is creating a keepsake for each lost tooth, allowing your child to collect all these lost teeth in a box, for example, and establishing a special tooth-losing ritual.
Throughout the world, the most commonly applied ritual by parents is that of the tooth fairy. Hide the lost tooth with your child under their pillow and replace it with money or a gift the following morning. This tradition will provide comfort and positive reinforcement for your child, who might be anxious about losing a tooth.
Apart from understanding the medical background of tooth loss, timeline, signs and symptoms, precautions to take, and techniques to make the experience less unpleasant, what matters most is being there for your child during this transitional phase. Simply celebrating the growth and development of your child’s smile is all it takes. And they will feel that this experience is much more enjoyable than they initially thought.
About the Author
Dr. Suzanna Maria Sayegh is a Doctor in Dental Surgery who graduated from the Saint-Joseph University of Beirut. She holds a Master’s degree in Esthetic and Prosthetic Dentistry, a Master’s in Research and Biomaterials, and a University Diploma in Oral Pathology. She continuously seeks out professional development opportunities that allow her to remain aware and knowledgeable about new dental practices and the latest technologies being considered or used.