When your child begins elementary school, she also begins losing her primary teeth. While visions of tooth fairies fill your child’s head, you wonder what you should expect.

For example, you might wonder how many teeth your child should lose and when. You might also wonder how to know if your child’s tooth loss is healthy, and when your child needs a dentist’s help.

Read on for answers to your questions.

Primary Tooth Loss: The Pattern

Like other animals, humans develop primary teeth because our jaws aren’t big enough for permanent teeth.
As we grow, we begin to lose our primary teeth and have them replaced with our permanent teeth.

Our primary teeth hold space in our mouths, allowing each permanent tooth to grow in normally. Each primary tooth falls out because the permanent tooth below it grows and pushes it out of the way.

Here’s a general guide to when your child will lose his or her teeth:

  • 5 to 7 years old: Your child loses his or her middle teeth.
  • 7 to 8 years old:  Your child loses the teeth on either side of the middle teeth.
  • 9 to 12 years old: Your child loses his or her molars (the teeth at the back of the mouth).
Common Issues With Tooth Loss

Most children will lose teeth without any problems. However, you should watch for the following situations.

  • Losing teeth unexpectedly: If your child gets a tooth knocked out before it’s ready to fall out, you should take him to a dentist. Similarly, if your child loses a tooth before age 5, a dental disease or an accident may have caused the loss. Your dentist may need to place a spacer in the tooth’s place. The spacer will prevent the permanent tooth from coming in too early and crowding other teeth in your child’s mouth. 
  • Losing teeth too late: If your child is 8 years old and still hasn’t lost any teeth, see a dentist. Your dentist can take an x-ray to check that your child’s dental health is normal.
  • Painful tooth growth: Your child most likely won’t feel pain as his or her new teeth come in. If your child does feel pain, give him or her a mild pain reliever. If the pain continues, visit a dentist.
  • Loose tooth that won’t fall out: Tell your child to lightly move the tooth back and forth. However, your child should not yank the tooth out; she might damage its roots and increase infection risk. If the tooth has been loose for several weeks, see a dentist.
  • Two rows of teeth: Sometimes, a child’s new teeth come in before the old ones fall out. This is nothing to worry about-the primary teeth will fall out soon.
  • A primary tooth gets a cavity: Even though your child’s primary teeth will fall out, he still needs to visit a dentist for cavity treatment. If your child develops a cavity, it can cause pain and even develop into an infection. If the cavity is between teeth, it will take away space the permanent teeth need to grow.
How to Keep Your Child’s Primary Teeth Healthy

Don’t forget to teach your child healthy habits like brushing and flossing. This will remove harmful plaque that leads to cavities. It will also prevent unnatural tooth loss.

In addition, your child should also see a dentist twice a year for a regular cleaning. Even though your child’s primary teeth aren’t permanent, their health affects the permanent teeth that will grow in after them. Dentists and dental hygienists use tools to remove plaque that brushing and flossing can’t remove.

If you have other questions about primary teeth and childhood tooth loss, ask your dentist.