Loosing baby teeth is a rite of passage for every child. Most anxiously stash their lost tooth under the pillow, hoping to get a reward from the Tooth Fairy. Meanwhile, a permanent tooth can now grow into the space once occupied by the baby tooth as a part of the natural maturation process. Although the age at which children loose their baby teeth can vary by several years, there is a normal timespan when this should occur.
According to Parents.com, most children start to loose their baby teeth when they are between 5 and 6 years old. However, the normal timespan can vary by several years. Some children start to lose teeth as early as age 4, while it may not happen for others until they reach 8 years old.
Certain factors influence the age at which a child starts to lose his baby teeth. If a baby was an early teether, his teeth are likely to fall out earlier. If his teeth developed later, they are likely to fall out later too. Dr. George White of Tufts University in Boston says children who get their permanent teeth later actually have an advantage for their overall dental health. The longer their teeth remain below the gumline, the harder they get. This helps them to be resistant to cavities when they finally do grow in.
Dr. White points out that the roots of a child's baby teeth dissolve. As this happens, they loosen and eventually fall out to make room for the permanent teeth. Normally, the process starts with the botton two teeth in the front of the child's mouth, followed by the two teeth above those. Usually the teeth fall out on their own, getting stuck in something the child is eating or simply dropping out.
Sometimes a loose tooth will hang by a thread for a while. The child will be able to wiggle it, but it won't fall out on its own. Dr. Gerald Ferretti of the University of Kentucky says that it's OK for a child to wiggle the tooth and move it around or even try to rotate it in order to help it fall out. However, he says the tooth should never be forced out of the mouth. If the root is not completely dissolved, he warns that pulling it forcibly could lead to infection.
Even though the normal timeframe for loosing teeth can vary widely, Dr. White suggests seeing a dentist if a child hasn't started the process by age 7. He says there is likely to be no problem, but if there is, it can be caught and corrected. The dentist will normally take an X-ray to check for permanent teeth underneath the child's gums.
Sometimes the permanent teeth will come in even if the baby teeth have not fallen out. The child will temporarily have two rows of teeth, known as "shark's teeth." Dr. Ferretti says this is not usually harmful, as the permanent teeth generally force out the baby teeth within several weeks. If this doesn't happen in three months, the child should see a dentist.