Every parent remembers the first time a tooth peeked through their baby’s little grin as they were teething. As children grow, their teeth grow along with them until that other milestone fixed in the memory of all parents: The loss of the first tooth and the tooth fair’s first visit.
What Baby Teeth Are
What most people call baby teeth are what dentists call deciduous or primary teeth. They begin to form during the embryo stage of pregnancy and begin to poke through the gums (or “erupt”) around 6 months of age. Usually, by the end of their second year, a child’s baby teeth have all come in.
The Role Of Baby Teeth
If a child is going to lose them anyway, we might wonder why baby teeth even exist. Baby teeth actually play a number of important roles in the development of a child. They make way for the permanent teeth by maintaining proper mouth spacing as the jaw bones and muscles develop. The baby teeth also provide the pathway through which the permanent teeth erupt. In addition, baby teeth are vital to the development of a child’s speech, facial expressions and the ability to chew food.
For these reasons, baby teeth should be cared for by establishing good oral hygiene early and by twice-yearly dental checkups from about age one, or six months after the first tooth erupts.
The Tooth Fairy’s First Visit
During early childhood, the permanent teeth grow and develop unseen above and below the baby teeth. When a child is about six years old, the permanent teeth are ready to begin erupting and the roots of the baby teeth start to dissolve. This is why baby teeth become loose before they fall out. When a tooth becomes loose it is usually a few months before that tooth falls out, so a child loses his or her first tooth between six and seven years old and continue losing baby teeth until they thirteen.
Talking To Your Child
Experiencing a loose tooth for the first time can be scary for a child. You can help ease their mind by talking with them early about what is going to happen and why. If your family so chooses, you can also make it fun by introducing them to the “Tooth Fairy” and talk about why it’s exciting to have a visit from her. Sharing your own childhood memories of losing your baby teeth can strengthen the bond between you and your child and make the experience less scary and more fun for them.