What to do about a loose baby tooth

By Dr. Sheila Strock on August 25, 2022 in Children’s Oral Health


Child with loose tooth

Remember that old iconic image of a loose tooth being pulled by a string tied to a doorknob? Slam! Problem solved.

Fortunately, there’s a much easier and gentler way to help children when they have a loose baby tooth. 

Why baby teeth loosen and fall out 

Children generally lose their baby teeth between ages 6 and 12. During this process, permanent teeth (also known as adult teeth) push up under the roots of the baby teeth. When this happens, the roots of the baby teeth dissolve and there is only a little gum tissue left holding them in place. The baby teeth then loosen and eventually fall out, leaving room for the permanent teeth.

Options for parents and guardians 

When deciding what to do about a loose baby tooth, gauge your child’s attitude about the situation. Some children are excited because they know a visit from the Tooth Fairy will follow. Others dislike the feeling of the loose tooth and want an adult to help pull it. And some may be frightened about losing a tooth, likely due to fear of pain or blood.

  • If your child is ready for the loose tooth to go: Grasp it with a piece of tissue or gauze and it should come out with a gentle squeeze or a quick twist.
  • If your child is more reluctant: Let them wiggle the tooth with their tongue or finger. In time, this may be all it takes for the tooth to fall out.
  • If the loose tooth is not easily removed: It may not be ready to come out. If the situation persists, contact your dentist to see if the tooth needs to be professionally removed.
  • If your child bleeds after the tooth is removed: Moisten a piece of gauze and have the child bite down on it. Should bleeding continue for more than two hours or if the child experiences excessive swelling, redness or pain, contact your dentist.

Remind your children to be gentle when brushing in the area where the tooth was lost.

One study reported that about 80% of parents said their children had positive feelings about losing their first baby tooth.1

More ways to help your child

You can also ease your child’s concerns by explaining:

  • Why baby teeth become loose and fall out
  • It’s a natural, normal process
  • Losing baby teeth is a part of growing up

Remind the child that the Tooth Fairy loves to collect their lost teeth. You can make the Tooth Fairy’s visit more fun by:

  • Having the Tooth Fairy leave an encouraging note and a receipt
  • Leaving a reward like money – the average going rate for a tooth according to the Delta Dental Tooth Fairy IndexTM is $5.36 per tooth2
  • Reading a book with your child about the Tooth Fairy or going to the dentist
  • Getting a special container to hold lost teeth
  • Keeping a record of lost baby teeth 

No matter when your child loses their first tooth, be sure to practice good oral health habits like brushing teeth twice a day for two minutes, flossing daily, and visiting the dentist regularly.

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1 International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry

2 Delta Dental