That first wiggly tooth is quite a bit milestone in your child's life, isn't it? If you are in that stage at the moment, you may be proud of your child, and a little confused about how to handle the transition from baby teeth to adult teeth.
A tale of baby teeth and milk teeth
Human teeth are divided into two groups molars and incisors. Incisors (from the Latin "incidere" to cut) cut, and molars chew. Milk teeth actually start developing in a fetus, during the sixth week of pregnancy. Once your baby was done with the often horrendous and long process of teething, he ended up with 20 milk teeth. Those will slowly be replaced by 30 adult teeth, starting at around age six or seven. There are 28 "normal" teeth and four wisdom teeth, which most but not all people cut by age 24. My child, who is six, just discovered her first "wiggly woggly tooth", and she is really excited about it! She is reluctant to have it pulled out (which is of course unnecessary anyway, but it would also wave some of the drama around not wanting to eat goodbye), because she already lost two baby teeth about a year back, in a fall at the playground. That hurt! She is worried that losing her baby tooth naturally will hurt just as much. Which it won't. But there are plenty of other reasons to take care of those baby tooth until they naturally come out:
- The premature loss of baby teeth may affect the way in which adult teeth come in, creating the need for braces or other dental interventions.
- Dental caries (tooth decay) and other damage to milk teeth can also impact the quality of adult teeth, which are already present underneath the milk teeth. Such damage can actually create dental problems that last a lifetime, which is not something anyone wants for their child.
Losing baby teeth
Most kids lose their first baby tooth between the ages of six and seven. Baby tooth will come out in an order that reflects the order in which they came in. Teeth won't come out root and all; instead, the root dissolves as the adult teeth push their way into the gums. After the first tooth comes out and that will usually be one of the lower incisors your child will have a hole in their mouth for a while. He or she may have difficulty eating and talking normally for a while. The incisors should all come out and be replaced by adult teeth between the ages of six and eight. A little later on, between nine and 14, the child's molars will follow. Now, what should you do when your child tells you his or her tooth is loose, or you discover it?
First of all, this is a wonderful time to invest in a little more education about dental and oral hygiene. Sure, looking after those milk teeth is also really important, but now that the kid's adult teeth are coming in there won't be any more second chances. Brushing teeth properly, for at least two minutes twice a day, is one of the foundations or a great dental regime. Flossing between teeth, or using a water pick, ensures that there are no food particles stuck between two teeth where a tooth brush cannot reach. Good dietary habits form the other foundation of good teeth.
Children may always have trouble saying no to sugar and sugary stuff, but the transition from baby teeth to adult teeth offers a chance to talk about that. Most of the child's diet should consist of healthy foods like grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, dairy products and meats. You can tell your child that it is better for the teeth to binge on a whole packet of candy and to brush their teeth afterward then it is to snack on that same packet of candy throughout the day. Juices are just as bad for teeth as candy is, and brushing teeth after juice isn't some crazy idea.
Though most people won't actually do that. Being a dental freak during early adulthood may save someone from having dentures later on. what you really want to know is whether that loose tooth should be pulled out, or left to fall out naturally. Pediatric dentists will tell you that it is better for the tooth to come out naturally, but that your child may enjoy wiggling it about with their tongue. This process encourages the tooth to fall out more quickly. From what I am seeing in my own child, and in her friends, pulling a really loose tooth that is just hanging on by a nerve isn't always a terrible idea, though. Those loose teeth can make a kid really scared and whiny, and can even send them right into a hunger strike (or is that just mine, who's stubborn anyway?). Once the tooth is out, the drama is gone. And that counts for something too.