Dental Problems

All About Losing Baby Teeth

Baby teeth loss

Gummy Grins

When a baby tooth falls out, the big tooth is usually underneath the gums, waiting to erupt. Your child’s permanent teeth will have ridges on the biting edges at first (they haven’t been worn down yet through chewing), and they’ll be slightly less white than his baby teeth were. “As more adult teeth replace baby teeth, the difference in color becomes less noticeable,” says Fred S. Ferguson, D.D.S., a professor of pediatric dentistry at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and founder of aboutsmiles.org.

Don’t worry if your child’s teeth look a little too big for his face; his head will keep growing, but his teeth won’t. However, if the teeth seem crowded, you may want to talk to your dentist about arranging a consultation with an orthodontist.

Some kids develop two rows of teeth — often called shark’s teeth — when the permanent teeth come through before the baby teeth have fallen out. The new teeth will push forward on the baby teeth, usually causing them to fall out within a few weeks, Dr. Ferretti says. Consult your dentist if the double row lasts for longer than three months.
Teething Pain

The process of baby teeth loss is normally painless, but if the edge of a baby tooth cuts into your child’s gums, your dentist may encourage him to wiggle it more vigorously. At the same time that your child’s baby teeth are becoming loose and falling out, his six-year molars are coming in. The gums can look swollen, and some kids may complain that they hurt. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or topical analgesics can help ease the discomfort.

Although your child may insist that it’s hard to bite or chew with loose or missing teeth, it’s important for her to maintain a healthy diet. If she won’t chew, serve her vegetable soup, pureed fruits, and other healthy soft foods, Dr. White suggests. Make sure she continues to brush her teeth twice daily, and help her with flossing.
Late Losers

If your child has not lost any teeth by the time he turns 7, talk to your dentist. Most likely there won’t be a problem, but the dentist may suggest taking X rays to make sure that all the teeth are under the gum. In fact, there’s actually an advantage to getting permanent teeth late, Dr. White says. “The teeth will be harder as a result of remaining in the jaw longer, and they’ll be more resistant to cavities.”

That won’t matter to your child, though, who may feel like the “baby” in his class. (Some teachers even fuel such anxiety by making a chart of how many teeth students have lost.) You might say to him, “Everyone’s different. Just like some kids are taller than others, some kids lose their teeth earlier or later. Your teeth will come out when it’s right for your mouth — and if they come out before, then it’s not right for your mouth.” Your child might also enjoy reading books such as Tabitha’s Terrifically Tough Tooth, by Charlotte Middleton (Penguin Putman, 2001), or Arthur’s Tooth, by Marc Brown (Little Brown, 1986).

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