If you ask my friend's 5-year-old son, Cory, about losing his first baby tooth, you may as well take a seat because he'll give you an earful. He'll tell you about where it happened, what it felt like, how long he cried about it, what his friends said, and even what he was wearing at the time.
Cory was also proud to be one of the first kids in his class to get a visit from the Tooth Fairy. "Most children start to lose their baby teeth at age 6," says William C. Berlocher, D.D.S., president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. "Three or four of their teeth fall out each year, until all 20 baby teeth are gone by age 12." This guide will help both of you get through it with a big smile.
Is it scary for kids?
"Many are nervous that it will hurt or that they won't be able to eat," says Grace Yum, D.D.S., a pediatric dentist at Children's Memorial Hospital, in Chicago. Reassure your child that it might tingle a bit, but if she's in pain, you can always put a cream (an over-the-counter topical anesthetic like Orajel) on her gums.
Do the front teeth usually fall out first?
Most kids lose their bottom front teeth first, followed by the top ones, says Dr. Berlocher. If a top tooth or a back tooth is loose or falls out first, check with your child's dentist.
Is it okay to yank a very loose tooth?
It's better to let it come out on its own. Removing it early can be painful and may cause a gum infection. "Most kids are fascinated with wiggling a loose tooth and that's okay, but be certain her hands are clean," says Dr. Yum.
Is it dangerous to swallow a tooth?
Nope. It passes through the body, says Dr. Yum. Reassure your kid the Tooth Fairy will come if he leaves a note.
Will it bleed a lot?
Not if a tooth falls out naturally. Having your child rinse her mouth with water should take care of it. If the tooth was knocked or wiggled out, it'll likely bleed more. Have her bite down on gauze or a clean towel. It may take up to an hour for the bleeding to subside.
When will she get permanent teeth?
It often takes a few weeks to see the ridges of the new tooth, and a few months before it's fully grown. But sometimes permanent teeth start growing in behind baby teeth, says Shehzad Sheikh, D.M.D., a dentist in Sterling, Virginia. If they're more than halfway in, ask a dentist if the baby tooth needs to be pulled. Also check with her if a new tooth is crooked or discolored.
What's the going rate from the Tooth Fairy for a child's first lost tooth? According to a recent poll of about 550 readers on parents.com, the most popular amount is $1. More than 40 percent reported that the Tooth Fairy left a dollar bill or coin under their child's pillow.
Originally published in the August 2010 issue of Parents magazine.
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