If there’s one thing even more momentous than the hint of the first milk tooth breaking through your baby’s gummy smile, it’s the wobble and eventual loss of that first baby tooth to make way for the adult ones. Of course it’s not always momentous in a good way…
“My son developed his first wobbly tooth when he was six,” says Dani, a nurse and Mum of two. “He was beside himself – he was so upset. I’d find him crying in bed at night. It turned out that they had been learning about fossils at school, including fossilised teeth, and from that he had somehow developed the idea that if he lost his teeth he’d die!”
While not all fears are extreme, there’s no doubt that losing that first tooth can make some kids a bit anxious. “It’s like anything, there can be a build up of expectation and worry because they’re not quite sure what’s going to happen or how it will feel,” says Kimberley O'Brien, Principal Child Psychologist with Quirky Kid Clinic. “The important thing is to normalise it – talk to them about the fact that everyone loses their first teeth at some point. Maybe do some research on the internet with them. You can also encourage them to talk to older cousins or peers about their teeth-loss experiences – provided that they’ve had good experiences of course. Steer clear of any horror stories!”
The Tooth Fairy can also be a handy way to help kids forget their concerns. And while the going rate for a milky white varies between families – anything from one dollar up to ten dollars and a box of Lego – the generally-accepted currency is a gold coin. “Don’t be too elaborate with the whole Tooth Fairy story,” says Kimberley O’Brien. “Set it up more as a game, maybe a hide-and-seek treasure hunt. That way it doesn’t matter whether your child assumes that Mummy is the Tooth Fairy or whether it’s magic, their understanding can develop over time.”
Finally, start taking your kids to the dentist from a young age! Not only does it help kids to view dental visits as simply part of a normal routine rather than something to be dreaded, it’s a great way for parents to learn how to look after those precious teeth. “I always recommend for parents to start taking their children to the dentist from one year of age,” says Dr Sue Taji, Paediatric Dental Specialist with the Queensland Dental Group for Kids. “Some parents are surprised by that, but it’s more with regards to teaching parents about oral health; about what to feed their children, what food to avoid and how to look after the teeth. That’s something which needs to be done as soon as possible and it is a fantastic way to prevent teeth problems down the track.”
Dr Taji emphasises that children’s first teeth are extremely important in terms of development, even for basic things such as chewing, speech development and maintaining space in their mouths. “And remember, children will have some of those first teeth until they are eleven or twelve,” she adds.
Of course by age eleven or twelve the loss of that first baby tooth will seem like a distant dream, and there will be a whole range of other “firsts” to deal with!