You Don't Need to Pull Out Your Child's Loose Baby Teeth--Here's Why

Why we should let baby teeth fall out naturally, without yanking or pulling

let kids wiggle loose baby teeth
Let kids wiggle and don't pull loose baby teeth.. Getty Images/Kidstock

Are one or more of the baby teeth in your child's mouth starting to get the wiggles? Losing baby teeth, which starts to happen for many kids around age 6 or 7, is a big milestone for school-age children. It helps them affirm their identity as a big kid, in the same way doing things like learning to ride a two-wheeled bike or reading a book by themselves do. (And of course, there's the excitement of waiting for the gift--usually a nice bit of cash--that they know is coming from the Tooth Fairy.)

Parents may be tempted to help those loose baby teeth out by pulling them, but pediatric dentists recommend just letting kids wiggle the tooth until it naturally falls out on its own. "As the permanent tooth comes up, it erodes the baby tooth root," says Ed Moody, DDS, President of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. That means that in most cases, parents can just let kids wiggle that loose tooth until it comes out on its own, without any intervention like pulling. (The old "tie one end of a string to the tooth and the other end to a doorknob and slam the door" sort of strategy for helping a loose tooth come out is not only unnecessary, but may be upsetting to a child, and may cause bleeding and pain.) 

And if you're worried that your child will accidentally swallow a tooth that finally comes out, Dr. Moody notes that there's no harm--aside from the fact that your child won't have a tooth to put under her pillow--and that there is no danger of choking.

There are, however, a few instances in which parents should intervene:

If you see the permanent tooth coming out but the baby tooth isn't wiggling, call your child's dentist; in these rare cases, the baby tooth may need to be removed by the doctor.

If a sharp edge of a loose tooth is pinching the gum, try some Orajel or a similar numbing oral medication, says Dr. Moody.

You may also want to remind your child to wiggle that tooth more vigorously so that it comes out sooner.

If your child feels anxious or upset about feeling a tooth wiggle or come out, reassure him that all kids experience the same thing around the same age. Explain to him that it's perfectly fine for him to keep wiggling that tooth because it has to come out to make room for the tooth that's under it--a tooth that he'll have for the rest of his life. Remind him about all the things he'll get to do as he becomes a big kid and is more independent, like discussing their opinions about things and making more decisions about matters like family meals and what activities they want to do.

The bottom line is that it's perfectly fine to let nature take its course as those wiggly teeth come out, as long as you don't spot any problems. And be sure to take lots of pictures of your child with those missing teeth--they will be some of the cutest photos you'll treasure for years to come.

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