Losing baby teeth is a major milestone in your child’s life. Even if he or she seems to be losing the teeth too quickly, and all at once, there is usually no need for concern. It is a natural process that prepares your child’s mouth for the growth of permanent teeth, and ensures that there will be adequate space for those teeth to develop in.
Keep in mind that primary teeth are usually pushed out by a growing permanent tooth. So if they’re falling out quickly, then it means that the permanent teeth are ready to replace them.
But if your child loses a tooth too early before the permanent tooth is ready to set in, perhaps due to an accident, tooth decay, or wiggling an already loose tooth, then there could be a problem if a permanent tooth drifts into the new space, causing other permanent teeth to erupt in a crooked way, which might lead to crowding and other orthodontic problems. In such cases, you will need to consult an orthodontist.
The process of tooth loss
When your toddler begins to lose teeth, it can carry mixed emotions for your child, like excitement, anxiety, and fear of pain. While the circumstances involving the loss of a tooth are unique for each child, knowing the right steps to take as a parent will help you guide your child better during this transition phase.
A child has 20 baby teeth that usually come in by the age of 3 years, and tend to fall out in the same order they came in. Assuming that no accidents that cause your baby’s teeth to wiggle – or fall out – occur, your child should start losing teeth at around the age of 5 or 6 years.
A child’s tooth typically does not get loose until it is pushed from below by the permanent tooth looking to take its place, which can occur anywhere between the age of 6 and 12 years. The earlier the teeth came in, the earlier they fall out. The first teeth to come in are the lower centre incisors, so they will be the first to go, followed by the top centre incisors, and the rest follow.
- The top and bottom incisors (the four center teeth) tend to fall out between the ages of 6 and 8 years.
- The canines and first molar tend to fall out at the ages of 9 to 11 years
- The second molar usually falls out last, at the age of 10 to 12 years.
Early tooth loss
In some cases, baby teeth may fall out earlier than expected, especially if they came earlier. However, falling out too early could also be because they are decayed or knocked out.
Other reasons include:
- Genetics: Children often follow a similar pattern of tooth development and loss to their parents.
- Tooth decay: If your child has cavities or tooth decay, their baby teeth may fall out prematurely.
- Trauma or injury: A blow to the face or mouth can knock out a tooth prematurely.
- Gum disease: In rare cases, gum disease can cause baby teeth to fall out before they are ready.
- Early eruption of permanent teeth: In some cases, permanent teeth may erupt before the baby teeth are ready to fall out, causing them to become loose or fall out early.
If a baby tooth is lost too early, it can cause dental health problems, and it’s important to schedule an appointment with an orthodontist or pediatric dentist to determine the cause and any necessary treatment.
The gap left by a missing tooth can cause adjacent baby teeth to shift. And the misaligned baby teeth can lead to misaligned adult teeth when they set in, which will require orthodontic treatment to fix.
Early intervention with interceptive orthodontics is much easier and less invasive than waiting until the permanent teeth have come in crooked.
The orthodontist may recommend the use of a space maintainer to help maintain the space left by the missing tooth until the child is 8 years old, preventing the surrounding teeth from shifting, and allowing the permanent teeth to erupt correctly.
If the tooth loss was caused by dental caries or gum disease, the dentist can recommend various treatments to prevent further damage, including applying fluoride varnish or dental sealants to protect the teeth.
The dentist can also provide the child and parent or caregiver with instructions on how to properly brush and maintain oral hygiene to prevent tooth decay.
What should I do if my child has started losing teeth?
Prepare your child early for the loss of his/her first tooth
Your child will probably have heard about losing teeth, a tooth fairy, and new teeth growing to fill the gap from an older sibling or other family member. Even so, you should talk to them about what to expect using positive words to avoid scaring them. Consider getting your child a story book about tooth loss to help them grasp the situation better.
Encourage your child to wiggle a wobbler gently
After you explain to your child that the tooth is wiggling because it is been pushed by another bigger, better, and stronger tooth from below, encourage them to wiggle it gently, until the root underneath disintegrates completely. Also, remind them not to yank firm teeth until they’re ready to fall off to avoid infections.
Help soothe the pain
Loose teeth often cause some discomfort, and the gums around the tooth may become swollen and tender, but this should resolve itself as soon as the tooth breaks free from the gum tissue. If your child seems to be in agony, you can apply a cold compress to the area, or give him some pain killers, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If there is any bleeding, place a gauze or wet washcloth until the bleeding stops.
Help your child to maintain proper oral hygiene
Remind your child about the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene, especially when they start to lose teeth, and reward them for every successful tooth loss. Encourage your child to continue brushing twice a day, flossing every day, and avoiding sugary snacks.
Causes of concern
If you are concerned about anything, like early tooth loss (before the age of 6 years), delayed tooth loss (no loss by the age of 8 years), or the permanent tooth begins to grow in front or behind the baby tooth, please consult your child’s dentist or orthodontist as soon as possible.