Losing baby teeth is a rite of passage every child goes through, but have you ever thought about why we have two sets of teeth? Also called primary teeth, deciduous teeth or milk teeth, baby teeth serve a variety of functions before falling out starting around age 6.
Even though you may think baby teeth are nothing more than temporary teeth, they serve a very important role in your child’s oral development. Read on to learn what they do, why we lose them and whether you should pull them.
Baby teeth are placeholders
Infants and young children need baby teeth to eat and talk, but these teeth also play a bigger role in the development of the oral cavity. In the most basic terms, baby teeth serve as placeholders for permanent teeth.
The jaw bone of a small child is too small and weak to support big, heavy permanent teeth. But even though the mouth can’t yet support permanent teeth, the jaw must grow large enough to eventually hold them. So, if baby teeth aren’t in place, the jaw bone and muscles won’t develop correctly. The baby teeth essentially serve as placeholders until the jaw is strong enough to accommodate up to 32 permanent teeth some adults have.
Additionally, permanent teeth develop from the same tooth bud as the baby teeth. Therefore, the baby teeth also serve to guide the eruption of the permanent teeth.
How does it work?
Usually, children start losing their baby teeth around age six or seven to make way for permanent teeth. In some cases, children as young as four can start to loose their baby teeth. As the jaw grows, more space is created in the child’s mouth. The baby teeth begin to get loose. And when it’s time for a baby tooth to fall out — usually when the permanent tooth starts pushing from underneath — the root starts to dissolve. The permanent tooth will push upward and fill the space vacated by the baby teeth.
What’s the timeline for losing baby teeth?
While every child is different, baby teeth are usually lost in generally the same order.
- The upper and lower central incisors are lost between ages 6 and 7.
- The upper and lower lateral incisors are lost between ages 7 and 8.
- The upper and lower canines are lost between ages 9 and 12.
- The upper and lower first molars are lost between ages 9 and 11.
- The upper and lower second molars are lost between 10 and 12.
Fear of losing teeth
Losing a baby tooth, especially the first one, can be scary for some children. When a tooth becomes loose, the child’s mouth can feel strange and eating or talking may be somewhat hindered. This is only a temporary problem as teeth usually fall out fairly quickly once becoming lose. Reassure your child that the tooth will soon be gone and a visit from the tooth fairy is forthcoming!
To pull or not to pull?
Many parents ask if they should pull their child’s loose tooth or let it fall out naturally. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t pull your child’s tooth. If you pull it before it’s truly ready to come out, you risk damaging the sensitive gum tissue. You can also increase bleeding and the risk of infection. Your child will naturally play with the tooth and wiggle it, which helps move the process along. It will eventually come out without any intervention from a parent or dentist.
And don’t worry if your child swallows the tooth. The risk of choking on a swallowed tooth is quite low. And the tooth fairy will understand. Usually, a note to the tooth fairy will work just fine in place of the missing tooth!
Every child loses his or her baby teeth starting around age 6. These teeth guide the development of your child’s oral cavity and jaw and are therefore very important to his or her overall oral health. If you have questions regarding your child’s oral development, just ask! Give us a call anytime! We’re here to help!