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Pulling Loose Baby Teeth

By the time your child reaches age 3, he or she should have a full set of 20 primary teeth. They start falling out to make way for adult teeth around age 6 or 7. Baby teeth, as they are often called, are typically lost in the same order they came in. While it is a fairly straightforward process –temporary teeth become loose and fall out to make way for a permanent set – parents often wonder when and how to pull their children’s teeth.

As such, here are five helpful tips for pulling baby teeth:

1. Talk about losing teeth

Having a loose tooth can be exciting for kids. It’s a childhood milestone, and in many households it means a visit from the tooth fairy. For other kids, it can be scary. There may be fear of pain, and the sight of blood may be upsetting.

If your child is nearing the age when he or she will lose a tooth, have a talk about what is happening and how and why it occurs. He or she may have friends who have lost teeth, or the concept may be entirely new. Either way, it can be helpful to discuss the process and answer any questions they might have.

2. Don’t force it out

While it may be tempting to just go ahead and pull a loose tooth, especially one that is dangling, it’s often best to wait. Yanking it too soon can lead to unnecessary pain and extra bleeding from roots that are still strong. It may also increase the risk of infection. Give the tooth time.

3. Wiggle away

You may encourage your child to wiggle the tooth gently back and forth to help it along. Make sure his or her hands are clean.

4. When it’s time, be gentle

When it seems appropriate to “pull,” ask your child if he or she wants to do it alone or whether they would prefer you to assist. With clean hands, wrap the tooth in a little gauze or facial tissue and wiggle it free. Perhaps a small tug or light twist will be involved.

5. If it won’t come out, see the dentist

While it is rare that a baby tooth loosens but refuses to make way for the next occupant, it does happen. If your child’s loose tooth seems intent on staying put or is accompanied by swelling and pain, contact his or her dentist.

Kids generally lose all their baby teeth by age 12. Their molars come out last. In the meantime, it’s important to exercise good oral health, hygiene and safety. While baby teeth may be temporary, they are still susceptible to injury and decay. If children lose their primary teeth before their mouths are ready, space can be limited for adult teeth to erupt. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, orthodontists report that 30 percent of their cases originate from premature loss of baby teeth. Brushing, flossing, preventive dental care, and athletic mouth guards are all ways to keep teeth healthy and safe.

The role of dental insurance

Dental insurance is a primary indicator of access to preventive dental care. Routine dental checkups help ensure kids’ mouths are developing properly, and professional cleanings with fluoride treatments help prevent cavity-causing decay. Furthermore, your child’s dentist may recommend sealants to help prevent cavities in molars. Preventive care, including exams, cleanings, fluoride and sealants, is often covered at 100 percent with your child’s dental plan.

As part of the Affordable Care Act—aka Obamacare—pediatric dental and vision are essential health benefits (EHB) and must be made available with all health plans, either as part of major medical coverage or a standalone plan. Covered treatments and services within this benefit vary from state to state. Be sure you know what dental and vision coverage your health plan includes and whether or not you need to purchase the pediatric dental and vision EHB separately. Click here to learn more about how the new health care reform law impacts children’s access to oral care.

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