Your Child’s Loose Tooth

What to expect when your child starts sporting a less-than-toothy grin

Your Child's Loose ToothEvery time I look at him lately, my son Roan is chewing on his shirt. At first, I thought it was a nasty new habit, and pestered him to quit, even blurting: “Stop chewing on your shirt like a baby!”

And that’s when it hit me — maybe he actually is teething. I Googled “six-year-olds + molars” and what do you know — he is getting his adult teeth.

Out with the old

There’s a lot happening in the mouths of six- to eight-year-olds, says Calgary pediatric dentist Dr. Sarah Hulland. “The molars slip in behind the last baby teeth about the same time as the lower front middle teeth (usually the first to go at age six or seven) fall out.”

By about age 14, your child’s 20 primary teeth will be replaced with 28 permanent teeth (the third molars, or wisdom teeth, usually come in around age 18). Those adult teeth push upward and outward, eroding the baby tooth’s root, which is reabsorbed. “The baby teeth are not attached to the adult teeth — each is its own separate entity connected by blood vessels, like grapes on a vine,” says Dr. Hulland.

That’s why it’s okay for your child to use her tongue or fingers to wiggle her loose tooth. You can also give her a nice hard apple to chew on to help things along, Dr. Hulland suggests.

While there is usually little blood when the tooth breaks free, an enthusiastic child might cause bleeding if the tooth comes out before the root has been completely reabsorbed. Hulland suggests providing a Popsicle for your child to suck on or a piece of gauze to bite on for five to 10 minutes. The tannins in a moist, cool, black tea bag will also do the trick by coagulating the blood, but most kids dislike the taste.

In with the new

The permanent tooth should be visible a week or so after the loss of a baby tooth, but if it’s not popping through after a month, make an appointment with your child’s dentist to ensure it’s not being trapped by an adjacent tooth, suggests mom and dentist Dr. Jacalyn Sollid of Sidney, B.C. And don’t be alarmed (like I was) if the new tooth looks jagged and yellow — the experts say that’s normal. Our adult teeth are thicker and less reflective, and the edges wear down. And remember, kids need help with brushing with a fluoride toothpaste until they are at least eight and up to 10 for flossing, Dr. Hulland adds.

How much is that tooth worth?

Before slipping a loonie under your child’s pillow, it’s a good idea to check with parents on the playground for the going rate. While $2 might be the average — according to a recent study by a U.S. dental insurance firm — Dr. Sollid says she gives $5. “I know it’s too much, but that’s what his friend gets.” In Strathmore, Alta., Paula Beekman, a mom of four girls, alternates cash with tooth-care products such as pretty new toothbrushes and fruity-flavoured kids’ toothpaste to encourage her kids to keep their new teeth shiny.

Tanya Klaes Demmings is a Victoria mom of two who can’t wait until her kids are old enough to brush and floss their own teeth.

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