You’ve loved your child’s sweet smile for years, from the time that it was just a gummy grin to even the sassy smirks when they were a threenager. But lately you’ve noticed that one (or more) of your child’s teeth are looking a little lopsided. Could it be that the Tooth Fairy will soon be on the way? If you’re asking yourself when do kids start losing their teeth, this latest milestone might already have started.
What are the first teeth that fall out?
On average, children have about 20 baby teeth — 10 that are on the top and the other 10 that reside on the bottom. So with so many molars and incisors to be inspecting, it can be tricky to know which will be the ones that will fall out first. Thing is, with teeth, usually the first ones to come in are also the first ones to fall out, according to Dr. Erin Isaac, DDS, a board-certified pediatric dentist. “Typically, the first teeth to fall out are the lower central incisors, AKA the bottom front (middle) teeth,” explains Isaac. “Sometimes the top front ones fall out first, but usually it’s the lower.”
Now, you might notice that your child’s wiggly tooth isn’t alone. In fact, you might be able to spy another tooth growing in behind it. While seeing what looks like rows of shark teeth might be concerning, it’s pretty normal, says Dr. Saul Konviser, BDX, MSc, BSc, a general dental practitioner at Montagu Dental in London. “The most common concern I receive from parents at this stage is that there is a second tooth growing behind the baby tooth,” says Konviser. “This is not an anomaly but rather it’s just the adult tooth erupting through the gum which is very common while the baby tooth is still in the mouth.” Although this can occur with any teeth, it’s the most common with the lower front teeth. To ensure that your child’s adult tooth gets the TLC it needs — and to avoid a cavity — Konviser suggests extra brushing should be done so that plaque doesn’t collect between the two teeth and irritate the gum.
When do kids start losing their teeth?
Your child comes home from school and tells you that yet another of their classmates lost a tooth during class. While there’s no hard and fast rule about when kids start losing their teeth, it usually begins when children are in kindergarten or first grade. “Baby teeth, or primary teeth, will usually start to fall out around the age of 6,” Dr. Morgan Nowery, DDS, MSD, a pediatric dentist at Cornerstone Care Community Health Centers says. “However, just as some infants will get teeth early and some will get their first tooth late, age 6 is just the average so do not panic if your child has not lost any baby teeth. Seeing your child’s dentist regularly and obtaining certain dental radiographs or x-rays can help to monitor baby tooth exfoliation and predict the timing of when your child will lose their first tooth!”
If parents want to keep their child’s teeth, what’s the best way to do so?
You saved your child’s lock of hair from their very first haircut, the onesie they came home from the hospital in — maybe you even kept their dried umbilical cord stump. If you’re planning to save your child’s first teeth, you might want to give them a wash first, suggests Konviser. “They are usually a bit mucky and may be covered with blood so it’s always best to give them a good clean with soapy water or even alcohol gel,” he says. “You can put them away for that rainy day to show them to your kids when they are older or for a school science project.”
Sentimental reasons aside, there might be another reason why you should keep your kiddo’s canines. “Once a baby tooth has fallen out it usually has purely nostalgic value,” says Konviser. “There is, however, more and more research into the use of baby teeth for stem cell harvesting.” While the research is still ongoing, it might be something that you can talk to your child’s dentists about since it needs to be done in close conjunction with your dentist and the company that is being used to process the stem cells. Says Konviser: “Not all baby teeth are suitable, and they need to be handled carefully as damage to the tissue inside of the tooth will render them useless.”
What are the ages and stages for your child’s teeth to fall out?
Just because your child lost some of their first baby teeth doesn’t mean that they’re all going to fall out soon thereafter. As it turns out, it takes time (and quite a bit of it) for all of their baby teeth to exfoliate. “According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the primary central incisors are the first tooth to erupt around the age of 5-10 months and will exfoliate between the ages of 6-8 years,” says Nowery. “The lateral incisors will erupt between 7-12 months and will exfoliate between the ages of 7-9 years. The primary first molars are usually the next teeth to erupt around 11-18 months and exfoliate around 9-12 years old.”
“The primary canines are the next tooth to erupt around the age of 16-20 months and will fall out around the age of 9-12 years old,” she continues. The last teeth to come in are the second molars around 20-30 months and those will not exfoliate until 9-13 years. This is why preventing decay in baby teeth is so important because those teeth are often present in the mouth until the age of 13!”
Should you or your child ever pull on a wiggly tooth to get it out?
Your child has had a tooth that has been wiggling for weeks and at this point, it’s downright dangling from the gum. But do you give it a twist to take it out? “Teeth will fall out naturally when they are ready, however, as we know kids can be impatient or the loose tooth can be annoying or cause some discomfort,” says Konviser. “Therefore, if a baby tooth is wobbly, I often tell kids to gently encourage them out by softly wiggling them or playing with it with their tongues. – definitely do not try to just pull it out and definitely don’t get parents to do it for them as they can’t tell how much pressure to use, and they end up hurting the kids.”
Still, if the tooth is being stubborn and refuses to come out, it’s best to leave it alone and give it something to chew on — literally. By using it for eating, it might give the tooth the push it needs to come out without pulling on it. (And while it might be funny to tie some string or dental floss to the tooth and then tie the other end to a door handle, that’s not always the safest — or hygienic — way to remove the tooth.) But if it’s really uncomfortable or painful for your child, a quick trip to the dentist can help remove the tooth in a safer way, advises Dr. Shahrooz Yazdani, DDS, a dentist and CEO and Director of Yazdani Family Dentistry. “If a tooth needs to be removed, it’s best to consult with a dentist or oral health professional who can safely and properly extract the tooth,” says Yazdani. “They will be able to provide the appropriate anesthesia, sterile tools, and post-treatment care to ensure the tooth is removed with as little pain and trauma as possible, and to prevent complications such as infection. Pulling a tooth on your own is very dangerous, as it can lead to severe pain, infection, or even nerve damage if done improperly.”
How long do teeth stay wiggly for before falling out?
There’s a lot of wiggle room as to how long your child’s teeth can be wiggly before falling out. “Baby teeth can stay wiggly for a few days to a few months, depending on several factors like diet, spacing/crowding in the child’s mouth and whether or not they like to play with their loose teeth or not,” says Isaac. “Kids who eat lots of crunchy foods, have plenty of spacing between teeth and wiggle their loose baby teeth are more likely to lose the tooth sooner than a kid who eats softer foods or chews on the opposite side of the loose tooth, has crowded or overlapped teeth and avoids touching or even brushing the loose tooth.” Ultimately, it’s up to your child — and genetics — as to how long it’ll take before the tooth comes out. Adds Nowery: “Offer encouragement to your children once they notice they have a loose tooth to help them remove the loose tooth before it becomes problematic or over retained.”
Usually when your child starts school full-time is when you’ll notice that kids start losing their teeth. Even if your child still has their entire set of baby teeth, it won’t be long before some of them start wiggling. And then when they lose their first tooth, you’ll fall even more in love with your toothless wonder.