When you become a parent, it can seem like you’re constantly confirming that your little one meets the popular milestones on time. One of those big moments — almost as big as when that first little tooth cuts through the gums — is when your child gets their first visit from the tooth fairy.
Here’s when you can expect your child to begin losing their baby teeth, common concerns, and potential complications — and what you need to know to stay on top of your child’s dental health.
Each child will sprout and lose teeth on their own timeline. When new teeth appear, the official term is eruption. While most people think of them as baby teeth (also known as milk teeth or primary teeth), their formal name is deciduous teeth. In total, your child will have 20 baby teeth to chow down their snacks.
Your baby will begin to gain teeth around 6 months of age, and this will continue until around the age of 3. From the age of 6, your child will eventually lose all of their baby teeth by the time they’re 12 years old. By the time your child reaches their teenage years, they’ll have 32 permanent adult teeth.
So why do baby teeth fall out, anyway? It turns out that those baby teeth act as placeholders, creating space in the jaw for future, permanent teeth.
For most children, their baby teeth begin to fall out around the age of 6. Of course, all of the teeth don’t fall out at one time!
When a permanent tooth is ready to erupt, the root of a baby tooth begins to dissolve until it’s completely gone. At that point, the tooth is “loose” and only held in place by the surrounding gum tissue.
You might be surprised to find that most people lose their baby teeth in the order that they erupted.
As such, since the lower central incisors are the first teeth to appear around 6 months of age, they’re also the first to come loose and make room for your child’s permanent teeth when they’re around 6 or 7 years old.
After the lower central incisors, the upper central incisors come out, making way for the bigger upper central incisors we all expect to see on adults.
For some children, losing teeth can be an exciting time, especially if you introduce fun concepts like the tooth fairy. For others, it can be a little upsetting, as something that they thought was permanent (their tooth) just came out of their mouth!
Likewise, it’s not uncommon for children to experience a little pain or discomfort when they lose a tooth. After the tooth is removed:
- Have your child rinse their mouth with a simple saltwater solution to help clean their gums.
- Use a bit of gauze to help cover the area, which is known as a socket, and encourage them not to spit, as this can cause bleeding.
- Apply a cold, wet cloth after any bleeding has stopped if there’s pain or discomfort.
After the central incisors have been shed, the next baby teeth to go will be your child’s lateral incisors. Generally, the upper lateral incisors loosen first. This will usually happen between the ages of 7 and 8.
At this point, your child should be more familiar with the experience of losing a tooth. Ideally, it should no longer be a scary experience, as they’ll have already lost four teeth prior to the lateral incisors.
Compared with when your child’s teeth first erupted, losing them can be a significantly easier process for parents. While teething may be uncomfortable in general, incoming molars might be especially painful for babies and toddlers.
In contrast, the primary molars (also known as first molars) usually aren’t painful when they fall out or are replaced by permanent molars. These primary first molars are usually shed between the ages of 9 and 11 years old.
The last sets of baby teeth to go are the canines and primary second molars. The canines are usually lost between the ages of 9 and 12 years old, while the primary second molars are the last baby teeth that your child will lose. These final sets of teeth are usually shed between the ages of 10 and 12.
As your child grows, their jaws also grow to accommodate the larger permanent teeth. Once your child reaches the age of 13, they should have a full set of permanent teeth.
Once your child reaches their late teen years, their wisdom teeth (third molars) may come in. You might be surprised to learn that not everyone gets their wisdom teeth. Some only get a few instead of the full four wisdom teeth, and not everyone needs them removed.
These final sets of molars are called wisdom teeth because of the folklore belief that you only get these teeth once you’re more mature and have gained some knowledge due to having more life experiences.
The timeline shared here is just a general guideline. If your child’s teeth were slow to erupt, you should expect that losing their baby teeth might take a little longer, too.
However, if your child has missed their dental milestones by a year (whether eruption or shedding), speak with your child’s dentist.
Scheduling dental visits
Regardless of what is (or isn’t) happening in your child’s mouth, by their first birthday, you should schedule an appointment. After the first visit, your child should visit the dentist every 6 months.
Not everyone introduces the tooth fairy to their child, but it is a way to make a major milestone fun. You may wonder how much the tooth fairy should leave. The answer is… it varies. Some parents prefer to keep expectations simple with a few quarters, while others give a few dollars.
In general, the tooth fairy tends to be most generous for the first tooth!
Children will lose their teeth and develop that jack-o’-lantern smile on their own timeline. The most important thing is that you teach your child how to maintain proper dental hygiene so that long after their baby teeth are gone and forgotten, their permanent teeth are in healthy shape.