Losing baby teeth is a big milestone in your child’s life. Around 6 years old, most children will start to lose their baby teeth as their permanent teeth push through.
However, sometimes those baby teeth don’t fall out. There are certain times you can effectively remove baby teeth without hurting your child, but there are other times when it’s important to see a dental professional.
Loose Baby Teeth
As permanent teeth come in, the roots of the baby teeth gradually dissolve through a process called resorption. The amount of tissue eventually becomes so small that children can wiggle their loose teeth with their fingers or tongue, and that alone is all it takes for the tooth to fall out.
If the baby tooth is only slightly loose, or if your child says it hurts when it moves, it’s best to leave the tooth alone until the root dissolves more. However, if it’s very loose but won’t fall out, you can help your child by using a piece of gauze or tissue to grasp the tooth firmly and give a quick twist as you pull the tooth out.
Let Your Child Do It
It’s good if your child is willing to pull his or her tooth out alone. Your child can assess if it hurts too much and to wait until the tooth is looser. If your child doesn’t want to pull the tooth, he or she can eat an apple or brush his or her teeth more often.
It’s possible small fragments of the root that didn’t dissolve all the way will break off and stay in the tissue. Usually, these fragments will work their way out over time and are no cause for concern. However, if the remaining fragments begin to cause pain, redness, or swelling in the tissue, contact your child’s dentist so he or she can determine if there’s an infection.
Permanent Teeth Behind Baby Teeth
Sometimes the permanent teeth come in earlier than normal, and the baby teeth don’t have a chance to fall out. This causes the permanent teeth to come in behind the baby teeth, creating a double row of teeth usually called “shark teeth.” While this isn’t an emergency, it’s something a dental professional should address. Your child’s dentist may determine the baby teeth can still fall out naturally. However, if the baby teeth look like they’ll remain attached, he or she will extract them so that the permanent teeth can come in properly.
Permanent Teeth Didn’t Develop
Just because a baby tooth didn’t fall out doesn’t mean it needs to be removed. There are times when a permanent tooth never develops. This is most common with a mandibular second premolar. If this baby tooth doesn’t fall out, your child’s dentist will take an X-ray to see if the permanent tooth developed. If not, the baby tooth won’t cause a problem and will stay in place, even into adulthood.
As your child prepares for a visit from the Tooth Fairy, make sure you know when to help a loose tooth come out and when to see your child’s dentist.
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