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Losing Baby Teeth 101

Why (and When) It’s Important to Remove Baby Teeth

Many kids struggle with the wiggle. For whatever reason, whether it is fear of the physical removal or some concern about what happens if they remove the tooth, some children will not do the last bit of work needed for a baby tooth to fall out.

Why do baby teeth fall out?

Baby teeth (primary or deciduous teeth) fall out because the adult (permanent) tooth that is supposed to replace it is ready to erupt into the mouth. When babies are born, they are usually born with 20 primary tooth “buds” and 32 permanent tooth “buds” within their upper and lower jaw bones. Based on factors in their growth and development the baby teeth grow and develop first. Later on in life, (around age 4-5) the permanent teeth begin to grow and finally start to erupt around age 6 or 7. When the adult tooth grows, the crown of the tooth which is covered by enamel starts breaking down the roots of the baby teeth. When the adult tooth has “eaten up” all, or almost all of the primary tooth root, the primary tooth becomes loose.

Why don’t baby teeth fall out on their own?

The last level of attachment that the baby tooth has to the body is a direct attachment to the gums, which the permanent tooth cannot destroy. When there is no mechanical stimulation and manipulation of the tooth, the gums do not separate from the tooth and the primary tooth persists in the mouth. The key to the last bit of tooth exfoliation (tooth falling out) is mechanical stimulation.

What can happen if you don’t remove baby teeth?

If the adult tooth is ready to come in (you can confirm this with your child’s dentist) and the baby tooth is loose but not extracted, bacteria can get trapped under the crown of a loose tooth and cause an infection of the gums in the area. This infection can lead to cavities (or cavity-like breakdown) on the adult tooth that is erupting. Infections of gums can hurt and are serious. They need to be addressed immediately by a dental professional.

How can I help my child remove a baby tooth?

The easiest way to do this is to reward them. They are afraid, usually, because they don’t want to lose the tooth. It is an uncertain time and experience. If the parents are excited for the tooth to fall out, the child will jump on board. If positive encouragement is not working, try giving the child crunchy and/or sticky foods. Crunchies: granola bars, carrots, big apple slices. Stickies: Laffy-Taffy, Now-and-Laters, gummy bears. Just be sure to brush if you choose sugary foods.

All children are different and it is up to the parent to choose the method of tooth removal that is most appropriate for their family. Just be careful waiting too long to remove a loose baby tooth because nobody wants a gum infection!

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