When Do Kids Lose Their First Tooth
Usually, a child loses their first baby tooth around age 6 and finishes around age 12. While there’s plenty of variation in this schedule, if your child loses their first tooth before age 3 or 4, it’s a cause for concern.
It’s not uncommon for parents to be concerned when they see their children lose their first teeth — especially when that loss occurs early on. However, the reason behind why some kids lose their primary teeth earlier than others is still unclear. Some experts believe that genetics play an important role, while others argue that environmental factors like diet also have something to do with the timing. The bottom line is that many things can affect how quickly young children grow out of their baby teeth.
The average American kid will lose his or her primary (or deciduous) teeth between ages 5 and 7 [sources: CDC; Kipnis]. This information comes from studies done by pediatric dentist Dr. Daniel J. Bikle, who has been practicing dentistry since 1974. He says that the exact time frame varies depending on what country you’re in because different countries follow different schedules. In Europe, the average is about five years, but in Asia, it can take as long as eight years for kids to get rid of their baby teeth.
Why are these changes so significant? Teeth are used primarily for chewing food, which allows our bodies to break down carbohydrates into energy, proteins and fats. Teeth also help us swallow and digest food. Without adequate teeth development during childhood, we may have problems eating certain foods such as ice cream, pizza or other high-calorie snacks. Children whose diets are lacking in calcium and iron might experience delayed physical growth.
So how exactly does one go about getting all those needed nutrients? Let’s start at the beginning: A baby tooth simply develops inside the gums where two tiny roots form a foundation for the tooth itself. When the root system reaches its full potential, the tooth pushes through the soft tissue and makes its way out. Once the tooth appears outside the mouth, it erupts into place and begins forming enamel and then adult teeth follow.
As mentioned previously, the timing of tooth loss differs among individuals. Typically, a child loses his or her first baby tooth around age 6 and finishes around age 12. However, there is much more variation in this schedule than most people realize. For example, some kids could lose their first tooth as early as age 2, while others wait until they’re 8 or 9 years old. Why the wide range? Many factors come into play, including whether the child eats well, gets enough sleep and exercises regularly.
If your child loses his or her first tooth before age 3 or 4, it’s a cause for concern. Not only should you seek medical attention, but also talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have. If your child goes through a prolonged period without losing his or her first tooth, he or she might need further evaluation by a pediatrician.
In addition to the reasons discussed above, here are some other possible causes to check off your list:
Excessive fluoride exposure
Long-term use of antibiotics
Tumors near the jaw bones
On the next page, we’ll look at some of the signs associated with tooth decay and discuss ways to prevent it.
Tooth Decay Signals
While the loss of a single tooth doesn’t necessarily mean anything serious, if multiple teeth begin falling out at once, it’s worth checking with your dentist. At this point, it’s difficult to determine if your child is suffering from dental disease or another condition. To rule out tooth decay, your pediatrician may want to x-ray the affected areas.
Aside from x-rays, doctors can usually detect the presence of cavities using several methods, including:
Laser fluorescence imaging – Laser fluorescence technology uses light beams to identify hidden caries (cavities). It can be used on both adults and children. Your dentist will probably want to perform laser fluorescence screening on any patient younger than 18 years old.
Digital radiography – Digital radiographs show the actual images within the tissues. They allow the dentist to visualize the bone structure underneath the teeth and surrounding tissues.
Intraoral camera – Intraoral cameras work similarly to digital radiography, except instead of film, they capture images digitally. You won’t feel any discomfort from the procedure, and it takes less than 10 minutes.
These methods can all help to diagnose cavities, gum diseases and other oral health issues. As mentioned previously, if your child experiences a sudden increase in missing teeth, make sure to consult a dentist right away.
To keep cavities from forming or spreading, you should practice good oral hygiene habits: brush twice daily with a gentle cleanser, floss daily and visit your dentist every six months to ensure proper dental care. Also, consider asking your child’s school nurse or gym instructor about any medications he or she consumes. Drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen often interfere with the body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals, making them harder to process. Antibiotics are also notorious for interfering with vitamin production, too.
With a little bit of luck, you’ll never have to worry about your child losing his or her first tooth. But if it happens anyway, don’t fret! There are numerous treatments available, ranging from topical agents to surgery, to treat lost baby teeth. Most importantly, always consult your family dentist for advice. After all, you’d hate for your child to miss out on a cavity filled with candy or popcorn kernels!
Baby teeth don’t just fall out — they’re pulled out to avoid infection. Around 100 million babies worldwide undergo infant extraction each year.
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