Category: Baby Tooth Care

Out with the Old, In with the New
Out with the Old, In with the New

Losing baby teeth

As parents and caretakers, we often experience just as much discomfort as our little ones do when it comes to teething. From long nights of frequent wakings for teething gel, to a freezer full of popsicles to sooth the gum inflammation, we are more than happy to see that last tooth pop through their little gums! But, after all that hard work, those pesky teeth then begin to fall out. Just when you think you have this tooth-sprouting business done with, you hear, “my tooth is loose!” and it’s a whole new game!

Those words represent another big milestone in your child’s life. Baby teeth have to fall out to make way for permanent teeth to grow; this process can last six or more years from start to finish. Most kids are probably excited to feel their loose, wiggly tooth, and some may worry and wonder if it will hurt. Every child is unique and will react in either fashion. Your response should be as unique as theirs: reassuring them that this is a normal, necessary process, and even showing excitement for them.

First things first

file0001992721486Your child’s 20 baby teeth, which typically come in by age 3, usually fall out in the order in which they came in. On average, kids begin losing teeth at age 5 or 6, but some can lose the first tooth as early as 4 or as late as 7. Since the lower center teeth (lower central incisors) are usually the first to erupt, that means they are usually the first to go as well. The top center pair is next. The middle teeth are usually the first to go (at 6 to 7 years), followed by the ones on either side (at 7 to 8 years). The molars can be lost at any time after that, but will likely be gone between 9 and 12 years. Typically, the teeth will not loosen until the permanent tooth begins to push its way through. These permanent teeth have been growing beneath the gums for some time and eventually dissolve the root of the baby tooth in its path, making it loose.

Think of it like this: the younger the child was when the teeth came in, the earlier they fall out.

It is possible, however, for kids to lose a baby tooth too early, before the permanent tooth is ready to erupt, due to an accident or dental disease. Sometimes a pediatric dentist will put a spacer (a custom-fit plastic placeholder) in the place where a baby tooth fell out too soon until the adult tooth is ready, in order to prevent future spacing problems. If your child begins to lose teeth before 4, you should consult a dentist to make sure there’s no underlying disease.

On the contrary, it is also possible for a child to reach 7 or 8 without losing any baby teeth. In such cases, there’s probably nothing wrong, but it’s a good idea to consult a dentist for X-rays to assess the situation. During the preschool years or shortly after the age of 4, prior to losing their baby teeth, your child’s jaw and facial bones grow to create space between the primary teeth for your child’s permanent, adult teeth to come in. In all, your child will have 28 permanent teeth by the age of 12, sometimes later which is also normal. The remaining four “wisdom teeth” arrive between 17 and 25 years of age.

 What to do

So your child has approached you declaring that they have a loose tooth. During these years in your child’s life, his grin will slowly start start to transform, but in the meantime, it will be full of permanent teeth and baby teeth alike. What can you do, and what should you do to help your child through such a loss as this?

  • Encourage your child to gently wiggle a their loose tooth. Some loose teeth can actually be rotated because the root underneath has almost completely disintegrated.
  • Remind your child not to yank a tooth before it’s ready to fall out on its own because it makes the broken root more vulnerable to infection. No tying-a-string-to-a-doorknob tricks, please! A loose tooth that refuses to come out may need to be pulled by a dentist, though this is hardly ever necessary.
  • Just allow nature to take its course! It shouldn’t take much effort, and there should be very little bleeding. Focus on making sure your child is brushing well at the gum line; often the tooth will come out easily during regular teeth brushing.
  • Losing baby teeth is seldom as painful a process as teething. If your 5- or 6-year-old complains of pain in the back of his mouth, it’s probably the 6-year molars coming in. (He has no baby teeth there to fall out first). A topical painkiller, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen can ease the ache, though it’s unlikely to last long.
  • Make it fun! Play the tooth fairy and give your child some quarters for their teeth. Make a pillow or use an envelope to keep them safe!

The new arrivals

The new teeth may look bigger, especially those first few. That’s because they are! Adult teeth also tend to be less white than baby teeth and have pronounced ridges because they haven’t been used yet for biting and chewing. Sometimes, but not often, a couple of new teeth come in before the old ones are gone, creating two rows of pearly whites. This is a temporary stage, sometimes called shark’s teeth. Keep an eye on your child’s progress and if you are concerned, talk to their dentist. Brushing is now more important than ever. You’ll probably need to supervise the process until your child is around 8, and until then he won’t need to use more than a pea-sized dot of toothpaste. Some doctors recommend using toothpaste without fluoride until the child can spit, if tap water contains enough fluoride. Replace toothbrushes every two or three months to reduce harmful bacteria and keep them working at their best. And make sure your child sees a dentist twice a year. As your child wiggles those teeth away, take pictures of all the awkward smiles, and sing, “all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth!”

A Baby’s First Brushing
A Baby’s First Brushing

Of all baby’s firsts, brushing should be one of those considered, first! Even those bare newborn gums need to be cleaned as a preventative measure for tooth decay. Below the surface lie tiny teeth, which gradually peek through the gums during the first 2 1/2 years of life. From birth to the the appearance of the first tooth, we say, the sooner the better to brush!

In most cases, babies clearly don’t have teeth from the time of birth. But, when is a good time to begin caring for your baby’s mouth? This is a very important question and one which many parents are unsure.

Good dental care begins at birth, before the teeth are even visible. The American Dental Association suggests that parents begin cleaning their baby’s mouth once a day during the first few days after birth. Despite your infant’s exclusive diet of breastmilk or formula, the gums should be cleaned of the residue. Wipe your baby’s gums with a clean gauze pad after each feeding to remove this residue that can harm erupting teeth. Cleaning your child’s mouth at this early stage will also help them to become accustomed with the whole process, meaning your child may not object to the toothbrush later on!

As your baby grows and changes, so does their need for care. Your child’s primary teeth, sometimes called “baby teeth,” are equally important as their permanent adult teeth and they are also vulnerable to tooth decay from their very first appearance. So why are baby teeth important to care for if they will eventually lose them?

Your baby’s Primary teeth will typically begin to appear between age 6 months and 1 year and caring for these first teeth sets the stage for the health and development of permanent teeth. Though your baby’s primary teeth will fall out, they do serve some important functions: primary teeth help children chew and speak as well as hold space in the jaws for permanent teeth that are growing under the gums.

baby_gum_swabIf you haven’t already established oral care, The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that care should be implemented no later than the time the first primary tooth cuts through the gums. This is often an unpleasant time for both babies and parents alike, since many infants will experience teething symptoms prior to “cutting” their first tooth and those to follow. Brushing your infant’s teeth as soon as they surface helps to reduce bacterial colonization. When your baby’s teeth begin to emerge, brush them gently with a soft-bristled, child-size toothbrush and water two times a day. It isn’t absolutely essential to use toothpaste to clean your baby’s teeth; the brushing action itself is the most important part of keeping them clean. As recommended by The American Dental Association, a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste for children two and older is all that is needed. If you prefer to use toothpaste, choose one that is designed specifically for infants after consulting with your child’s dentist.

As tedious as dental care for your baby can be, establishing healthy habits from the start is crucial to the longevity of your child’s oral health. Every parent struggles with their children whether it is getting them to eat broccoli or picking up toys. So how can you make a positive, fun experience for your child that will encourage them to care for their teeth? Younger and older babies alike will be more apt to brush their teeth if you make the entire experience fun.

For your younger baby, it works best to start brushing teeth from the time they are born. This way dental hygiene becomes a part of your child’s daily routine before she becomes the typically combative toddler afflicted with a case of the “no’s.” Allow her to grip the toothbrush and play with it, never force it into her mouth which may cause a negative association and possible gagging. Even if you are using a wet cloth, let your baby touch it as you play or sing with her to make it an enjoyable game.

For your older baby, you might buy an electric toothbrush that’ll do a lot of the cleanup work and enthrall her with the noise it makes at the same time. If you prefer to use a regular toothbrush, take her to the store and let her choose her own toothbrush. Some feature cartoon characters on them that children love. If your baby won’t open her mouth when it’s time to brush her teeth, then try putting a brush in your mouth, since babies love to mimic whatever Mom or dad is doing! Also, make brushing a family activity; let your child watch you as you brush your own teeth, and make the most of teaching your child through your example. If you act as if brushing teeth is one of the most enjoyable things you do in your day, she may chose to enjoy it as well!