Loose Teeth: To Pull or Not to Pull

Losing baby teeth is a rite of passage for many kids, and pressure comes from friends and parents alike to hasten the process. If you’re thinking about helping a loose tooth come out with a quick tug, you might want to reconsider. In most cases, letting baby teeth loosen and fall out naturally is a less painful, healthier option than pulling the tooth out before it is ready.

 Letting Teeth Come Out Naturally

For most kids, baby teeth start loosening and falling out at around age six or seven. It can happen much earlier or later, though. Just because the majority of your child’s friends have lost teeth already doesn’t mean you need to speed up the process with your own kid.

Most of the time, the teeth loosen in the same order they came in when the child was an infant. Typically, this means that the bottom front teeth loosen and fall out first, followed by the upper front teeth.

The permanent teeth form in the gums beneath the baby teeth and push up as they grow, causing the baby teeth to become loose in the gums. The roots of the baby tooth actually dissolve as the permanent tooth pushes on them, which is why the tooth eventually falls out painlessly if left alone. Pulling a tooth out prematurely causes pain and bleeding because the roots aren’t fully dissolved, so nerves and blood vessels are still present under the gums. Another potential problem is that the broken roots left exposed by a tooth pulled too early can become infected.

 Dealing with Knocked Loose or Damaged Teeth

Kids play rough sometimes, and sudden bumps or falls can cause an otherwise perfectly healthy tooth to come loose or become damaged. If your child’s tooth didn’t loosen naturally, have a dentist look at the tooth to determine the right course of action. Just because the tooth is loose doesn’t mean that the rest of the mouth is ready for a lost tooth. The permanent teeth underneath the gums might need more time to form. If the baby tooth is chipped or cracked, a pediatric dentist might be able to repair it until the permanent tooth comes in underneath. In some cases, the tooth might need to be removed, but this should be done in the dentist’s office instead of at home. If the tooth is removed due to damage, your child’s pediatric dentist might put in a spacer to keep the other teeth in place until the permanent tooth grows into the vacant spot.

 Pulling Extremely Loose Teeth

Some kids are eager to get loose teeth out as quickly as possible. If your child can’t handle the constant wiggle of an extremely loose baby tooth and is determined to get it out, giving it a little help might be an option. Don’t try pulling out your child’s tooth unless it is so loose that only a tiny amount of tissue is holding the tooth in. If your child is ready to get that tooth out, simply place a piece of gauze or tissue over the loose tooth and gently squeeze and twist the tooth to remove it. If the tooth doesn’t slide out, it probably isn’t quite ready for removal. Children who are nervous about having teeth removed by hand can simply use their tongues to continue wiggling loose teeth until they fall out completely.

 Worries About Losing Baby Teeth

While many kids are eager to get loose teeth out as quickly as possible, others are afraid that losing teeth might hurt. Don’t force a loose tooth to prove that the process isn’t painful, and don’t encourage a child to pull out the tooth to get the pain over with quickly. The most painless way to lose a baby tooth is to let it fall out by itself. You can explain to your kids how the root, which contains the nerves that cause pain, dissolves underneath the tooth before it completely pops out. Knowing that it isn’t going to hurt can make the whole process less stressful.

If you have any concerns about your child’s loose teeth, schedule an appointment with our office.