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That first wiggly baby tooth is a huge milestone for kids and their parents. It can also be a somewhat scary experience, and one that brings a few dilemmas. Should you pull wiggly teeth out, or should you wait until they come out by themselves? What should you teach your child about dental care once she starts losing her baby teeth? Do you need to take a trip to the dentist now?
Transitioning From Milk Teeth To Adult Teeth
Baby teeth, milk teeth, or deciduous teeth — whatever you want to call the first set of teeth humans and many other mammals gain, they are very important to a little one's development. They help with speech, eating, and the transition to adult teeth. Believe it or not, baby teeth actually start forming under the child's gums while she is still an embryo! Baby tooth formation starts at six weeks gestation, and continues right until those teeth start erupting once a baby is six months old.
By the time a toddler reaches her second birthday, she will have all of her baby teeth. Children have 20 milk teeth, which will eventually be replaced by 30 adult teeth — 28 regular teeth and four wisdom teeth, which are often pulled out.
Humans have several different kinds of teeth — incisors, canines, premolars and molars. The word “incisor” comes from the Latin “incidere”, which means “to cut”. These teeth cut food, and your child's incisors may well be quite worn by the time they start to wiggle. Molars chew, while the canines serve to hold pieces of food in place, so they can be torn apart.
Most kids lose their first baby tooth at age six or seven, and the process of tooth replacement happens roughly in the same order in which the baby teeth also came in. Are you and your six- or seven year-old child looking out for wiggly teeth? The top or bottom front incisors (“number one” teeth) are the ones to keep an eye on.
What does that process mean for the child? The root of a milk tooth will actually dissolve, and will then gradually come out. That nerve will hang on for a while, so it's possible to see a whole tooth hanging by a “little thread”. I asked my six-year old daughter who has lost two baby tooth so far and who currently has another loose tooth to tell me all about it. She actually lost two baby tooth in a fall when she was five, so comparing the two experiences was interesting (the first two teeth we keep in that special tooth box do have roots, and having tooth knocked out in a fall obviously hurt a lot).
So, here's the experience from the child's point of view:
“When I fell, two of my teeth came out. It really hurt. My first tooth to become wiggly was the one next to the teeth that came out during the fall. It started wiggling, and it was hard for me to eat some things, like bread. It was scary to brush that tooth when it wiggled. Then it just came out one day. When I got another wiggly tooth, mom pulled it out. That didn't hurt at all. We put the teeth in a special box. I love looking at my teeth in the box.
I am very proud of my new adult tooth. It is taking a long time to come out completely. It is about half-way done at the moment. I look in the mirror to see it all the time, and I take very good care of it because I don't want it to get decayed. I want my picture to be in mommy's article because I think my tooth looks so great.”