"My tooth is loose!"
- Those words represent a big milestone in your child's life. Baby teeth have to fall out to make way for permanent teeth to grow – a process that continues until the final molars (also called wisdom teeth) are in. This can take until your child is anywhere from age 17 to 21.
- Most kids are excited to feel a tooth wiggle (and perhaps get a visit from the tooth fairy), while some worry it will hurt when the tooth falls out. If your child is a worrier, you can reassure him that he probably won't feel anything.
FIRST IN AND FIRST OUT
A child's 20 baby teeth, which often come in by age 3, usually fall out in the same order they came in. That means the lower center teeth (lower center incisors) are usually the first to go, around age 6 or 7. The top center pair is next.
A baby tooth typically doesn't loosen until the permanent tooth below pushes it up to take its place. But it is possible for kids to lose a baby tooth before the permanent tooth is ready to erupt, especially because of an accident or dental disease. In this case, sometimes a pediatric dentist will put a custom-fit plastic placeholder (spacer) in until the adult tooth is ready to emerge. This prevents future spacing problems.
Some children lose their first tooth as early as 4 or as late as 7. Generally, the younger the child was when the teeth came in, the earlier they fall out. If your child begins to lose teeth before 4, consult a dentist to make sure there's no underlying problem. It's also possible for a child to reach age 7 or 8 without losing any baby teeth. There's probably nothing wrong, but it never hurts to check in with your child's dentist to make sure.
A loose tooth that refuses to come out may need to be pulled by a dentist, though this is hardly ever necessary. Losing baby teeth is seldom as painful a process as teething.