The first tooth wiggle is a special moment. Your child runs up to you: "Mom, mom, my tooth feels funny!" This is the first of about 20 baby teeth they will lose and 20 exciting visits they will experience from the Tooth Fairy. It shows they are growing up and are just a little bit closer to adulthood.
This can (and likely will be) a really fun time for both of you. But there are understandably some big questions for parents experiencing it for the first time. One of the biggest questions is what to do about those stubborn teeth that refuse to fall out on their own? When is the best time to pull out a loose tooth, if at all? And how can you make this moment so magical that they remember it for the rest of their lives?
Make sure the Loose Tooth is Ready
Before considering how to pull out a tooth, you will want to make sure it is ready to come out. Kids often take a tumble, and sometimes a knock to the mouth causes a baby tooth to come loose.So, it is important to first be sure that the tooth is wiggly because an adult tooth is erupting, rather than due to a dental issue. If you have any concerns whatsoever, it’s always a good idea to contact a pediatric dentist, just to make sure everything is fine.
One way to determine whether this is a malfunction or definitely a wiggly tooth is to note the child’s age, as they normally start falling out at around six or seven years old.
Another way is the order in which they come out. This is usually the same for all children. The first teeth to wiggle are generally the lower incisors (the lower front two teeth). If you remember the way they grew in during teething, the same order is mimicked when they fall out (first in, first out).
Check out our free downloadable Loose Tooth Fairy Chart to help document your child’s lost tooth journey.
A sign that you definitely don’t want to pull out the loose tooth is if your child reports feeling pain every time they touch it. While a little swelling of the gums and discomfort is normal, they should not be in real pain. In this case, again, it is best to contact your dentist and go for a check-up.
Observing the Wiggle
The most important thing is to observe the wiggle of the tooth. If it is only a little bit wiggly, then it is not ready to come out. Make sure the loose tooth is very wiggly and about to fall out before you even consider interfering.
The tooth will inevitably fall out on its own at some point. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. You will usually know when it is about to drop, because it will be hanging on by a thread and it will be possible to twist around. And this is the prime time to pull out a loose tooth.
Leaving a loose tooth to fall out is the most natural and easy way to deal with a wiggly tooth. Leaving it in protects the gum from infection, and once it falls out, the next tooth should be ready to emerge as the next part of their adult smile. So if you can, hold back the temptation to pull it.
So, do you know how to pull out a tooth? Make sure all hands are washed and any tools you use (thread, cotton balls or a damp cloth) are completely clean.
(Tooth Fairy Disclaimer: This is for kids’ baby teeth and not adult teeth—if you have a problem with adult teeth, please contact your dentist.)
Alternatives to Pulling Out a Loose Tooth
It’s empowering to allow your child to pull out the loose tooth themselves. Another way to encourage a loose tooth to fall out (without tying string to it and slamming the door!) is by eating a crunchy apple, or even a small caramel. This is a really great way for it to fall out naturally without too much of a fuss.
If your kids lose a tooth while eating something and happen to swallow it, there’s no problem. It won’t make them ill and will pass through the body without a hitch. Of course, swallowing a tooth might come with some disappointment or even anxiety about not being visited by the Tooth Fairy. But never fear, a little letter from the Tooth Fairy explaining that they will still find a treat waiting for them in the morning will make up for it.
Prepare Your Kids for a Loose Tooth
If this is your child’s first loose tooth, they may be a little nervous. Some may be quite scared. This is totally normal. Most kids are excited, and according to a study by the University of Zurich, 80% of children considered it a positive experience
But not all children do. If your child is the one in five that finds losing a tooth an upsetting or scary experience, then there are a couple of things that you can do to ease their concern or worry.
One is to have a story in mind before the first tooth comes out, or even (if they express early anxiety) before their first wiggle. The Charlie and Lola book My Wobbly Tooth Must Not Ever Never Fall Out, is a great introduction to the idea of losing teeth, for those who are feeling resistant or apprehensive.
Another idea is to have a cute cuddly toy as the tooth helper. This could be a kangaroo with a pouch to hold the tooth, or a teddy upon which you stitch a little pocket. These companions provide practical help and warm snuggles to worried kids. This is a lovely idea, especially for those whose teeth come out earlier than usual (around ages four or five).
Most importantly be sure to check in with your kids about their experience. Some kids get upset once the tooth has come out, so it’s good to be prepared for a few tears, as it can be a little shocking at first. This can easily be managed by staying calm; if you’re not worried about it, then they likely won’t be, either.=
Check out our free downloadable Loose Tooth Fairy Chart to help document your child’s journey.
As baby teeth start falling out more regularly, this is the perfect time to remind children of the importance of brushing twice a day, for two minutes and flossing every day. These new big teeth are now for life, so it’s important to take good care of them.
Some kids have a tendency to focus on the area the loose tooth has fallen out of, so make sure they don’t brush too hard and irritate the gums, which will likely be a bit sore for a few days following the tooth falling out.
Download our 7 Days to Make Brushing Teeth Fun
and hang it up in the bathroom!
How to Make it Magical
Along with the obvious visit from the Tooth Fairy during the night, there are plenty of ways you can make the day that the first tooth (and many others) fall out a magical one. There are a few ways to get your home (and your child) ready for the Tooth Fairy’s first visit...
Prepare for a Magical Visitor
Transforming their room into a magical grotto is one way to make the first Tooth Fairy visit a treasure memory. Imagine their surprise when they open their bedroom door, and the Tooth
Fairy’s magic has already been at work! These objects could appear magically just at the right time—as soon as the tooth has fallen out—as if the Tooth Fairy somehow knew and was ready for their visit. This can be a lovely surprise for your child to find on the day they lose their first tooth. Alternatively for a more hands on child, decorating the room together to welcome the Tooth fairy is an excellent bonding experience that encourages creativity and belief.
Portal to Fairyland
Can you think of a sweeter moment for your child upon losing a tooth to realize that the Tooth Fairy will be visiting that night? Even better to think of their excitement when they realize that a portal to Fairyland has appeared!
The door can be handmade, if you have the time, otherwise they can be bought online. Stick the door on the wall, and if you have a hard floor sprinkle a touch of glitter and a few tiny footprints in front of the door. The effect will be as if the fairy has just visited and left a trail while setting up their room. (Footprints can be made with a stencil or a toy’s feet.)
Where to Leave a Tooth for the Tooth Fairy
Unless you are a traditional put-it-under-the-pillow type, this is the perfect time to plant your new tooth holder in the right spot. These items could also appear mysteriously, as if by magic. Or if you would like your child to feel reassured, you could both leave it there for the fairy together.
There are many different places you could leave the lost tooth for the fairy to pick up:
You could use a little box, or a small silk pocket left on the door. This is useful if your child is a light sleeper, or you find going into their room difficult. Or, if you’re crafty, you could make a cute tooth fairy pocket pillow.
Follow this video to make your own tooth matchbox. This could also be a sweet thing to do with your little one if they are nervous or excited about the whole process and are artistically inclined.
Another adorable idea is to leave the tooth in a hot air balloon somewhere near and above the bed. (This makes finding the small gift the Tooth Fairy left a fun and exciting experience.) Just make sure there’s an easy way of getting it down from the ceiling!
Otherwise, you can always make a tradition of your own. If your child especially likes trains, for example, you could leave a train carriage out with the tooth in. Whatever you choose, having a special place can make it an easier exchange for tired tooth fairies and a fun thing to do for kids.
To make the moment really special, you could put up some fairy lights (or in this case, Tooth Fairy lights!) around their bed. Add anything magical that will set the mood: close the curtains and plant any letters under their pillow or perched on their bedside table to complete the scene. Add a sprinkle of glitter (fairydust), as you wish.
Add anything else that you can think of to create a magical atmosphere—voila! Your child will be amazed by what has happened to their room and super excited for the Tooth Fairy’s visit.
Send a Letter
This is the perfect time to leave a letter under their pillow (or wherever you will be leaving the presents) from the Tooth Fairy, congratulating them on losing their first-ever tooth. Here are 5 Letter Writing Tips from a Tooth Fairy.
If your child is really nervous about it all, then a letter before the first loose tooth falls out might be a nice reminder, that it’s all going to be ok and that the Tooth Fairy knows just how brave they really are, even if it is all a bit scary.
Before any teeth fall out, the fairy can also reply to any questions about it they might have. Concerns like it hurting can be calmed if the reassurance comes from the high authority on teeth because they will have seen a million of them.
A Tooth Fairy Journal
Another idea is to give a keepsake journal to your child as soon as their first tooth falls out. Then, each time they lose a tooth, you can take a photo of their new smile to put in the journal, along with any memories of how they felt about it, and letters from the Tooth Fairy or any drawings they might have of the experience.
"How is Mr. Wiggle today?" Kids who are unsure about this whole teeth-falling-out process can also give their tooth a name. This makes a fun game of the whole thing as it is falling out. You can ask them how their wiggly tooth is doing on a daily basis, and watch their progress for yourself.
You can also have a couple of tooth jokes to hand, for whenever the next tooth falls out. This makes a lighthearted and fun moment out of it each time. And you can look forward to making them laugh, as their new smile appears.
Magical Ideas from Around The World
An original idea is to celebrate this special moment with something that reminds your child just how grown-up they are becoming. In Turkey, there’s a wonderful tradition to go to an inspirational workplace and to bury the tooth near or in front of it. So, if your little girl wants to become a nurse or a doctor, you could visit the local hospital and bury the tooth nearby. If your little boy wants to be a teacher, you visit the local school, and so on.
The place can be anywhere that represents their aspirations for later in life. This can be a refreshing way to remind your child of their meaning or purpose, give them a sense of direction and an excitement about growing up. This could be linked to the Tooth Fairy, and perhaps a little letter about their aspirations could be sent that night.
Some cultures leave their teeth in shoes outside of their bedroom door. Or if you don’t care about keeping every single tooth, then you could throw your teeth on the roof, as they do in Japan.
So there you have it, when to pull (or not pull!) a loose tooth and how to make the moment as magical as possible. Because this happens but once a lifetime, why not make this a memorable moment for both you and your kids?
Have more questions about baby teeth? Learn more about why baby teeth are important and what to do if you suspect a baby tooth cavity.