Brace yourself. The tooth fairy is coming! Not too soon, though – you and Baby still have a few years to prepare
Once the toddler molars have battled their way through, gone are the days of teethers, (tooth-related) crankiness, swollen gums, mild fever, sleepless nights, and constant drooling. So much drooling.
After the marathon that started with the eruption of that first tooth at around 6 months old, it’s easy to start to wonder, “What comes next?”
By the time Baby was two years old, he probably had about eight of deciduous teeth, commonly called baby teeth, or temporary teeth. By the time he turns 3, he will probably have the full set of 20 deciduous teeth.
And then, just when he has gotten used to having them, they’ll start to fall out one by one.
Not-so-easy come, easy go
The school-age years (starting around 6 or 7 years old) are the time when Baby will start losing his baby teeth. Luckily, unlike the eruption of his first tooth, the falling out phase won’t be painful – most of the time, the entire experience is practically painless.
The first tooth that will fall out is usually the first one that erupted – generally either one of the middle bottom teeth or one of the central incisors. A tooth starts to get ready to come out by getting wiggly – this means that the new tooth is coming up and pushing out the old one.
There’s no reason to pull out a loose tooth before it’s ready – waiting for it to come out on its own generally hurts less, and sets the new tooth up to grow into gums that aren’t already sore. On the other hand, there’s also no reason to stop your little one from wiggling it until it falls out – which is good because trying can easily turn into a losing battle. Once the tooth is completely detached from the socket, ask Baby to rinse his or her mouth with water, especially if there’s bleeding. You can also have him bite down on a piece of clean cotton ball to create pressure to stop the bleeding.
Tooth care present and future
Preparing Baby for the second phase of his tooth development by helping him form good dental hygiene habits now will help you both out in the future.
- You can help make brushing fun for a reluctant tooth-cleaner by getting him a toothbrush with a character he likes, letting him pick out the toothbrush or toothpaste, and just generally making the act of brushing itself into a bonding experience! Brush together regularly. Show Baby how to properly brush his teeth, and then encourage him to do it on his own.
- Say no to juice, and yes to fluoridated water! According to the American Dental Association, not only will fluoridated water prevent cavities from forming, but it is also inexpensive and calorie-free! In most areas in the United States, and in many other countries, local tap water is already fluoridated. In areas where the general water supply is not fortified with fluoride, interested families can drink bottled, fluoridated water.
- Try to avoid or limit giving your child foods that are high in sugar, like sugary cereals, cakes, or cookies. Protein-rich foods like cheese, chicken, and nuts make great, high-energy substitute snacks. Fruits are also great snacks that are less likely to contribute to dental caries than sugary processed foods.
- You can help to put your little one’s mind at ease before his fears about dentist visits even have time to form, just by getting started with regular dental visits when he is young. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that the first visit should be at the age of one, and should continue about once every six months from then on. You can prepare Baby for the visit by showing him photos of dentists or by playing dentist at home.
Baby’s baby teeth may not be around too much longer, but the dental habits he develops now can last a lifetime.
- Brittany Seymour. “Is Fluoride Safe for Children?” Mouth Healthy. American Dental Association. Retrieved July 5 2017. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/babies-and-kids/moms-guide-to-fluoride.
- “Fast Facts.” American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, 2014. Retrieved July 5 2017. http://www.aapd.org/assets/1/7/fastfacts.pdf.