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Getting ready for your child’s first loose tooth

“I have a loose tooth!” These five words herald the start of a meaningful phase for kids. 

My oldest daughter fell down the stairs and knocked out her two front teeth when she was 19 months old, throwing off the order of things. Then when she was five, the first tooth to fall out naturally was swallowed – with a chocolate cupcake – leading to a fair bit of drama.

Dr. Priya Kothari, pediatric dentist at Kidsworld Dentistry in Aurora, Ont., says the chocolate-coated tooth was right on track. “On average, kids start losing teeth between the ages of five and seven, though some are earlier.” Timing actually depends on when your child’s baby teeth arrived, since early or late teethers tend to repeat the pattern when losing those first teeth.

“The way that they grew in is, on average, the same order they will fall out,” says Dr. Kothari. “The pattern is usually the lower front two baby teeth, then upper front, then lower side, upper side. Everything happens in twos, like Noah’s Ark.” The final molars usually fall out around the age of 12.

While some kids may be apprehensive about the first wiggly tooth, others enthusiastically attempt to help it along. Unless X-rays done at an earlier age showed any missing permanent teeth, Dr. Kothari says wiggling isn’t a problem. “I find that the parents are often more squeamish than the kids. I just remind them to wash their hands first!”

It can actually be helpful to encourage a loose tooth out of the way, as the replacement may be following closely behind. Sometimes it takes weeks for the adult tooth to fill the space, but occasionally permanent teeth are already erupting before the baby teeth fall out. Kothari recently saw a seven-year-old whose mother was worried about his double “shark teeth”, but once the dentist removed the stubborn baby ones, the permanent teeth were able to slide right into place.

Under the Pillow

While the Tooth Fairy visits most Canadian children and swaps money for a tooth left under a pillow, not all parents are enthusiastic about inviting her in. Before her son started losing teeth, Bobcaygeon, Ont., mom Jen Pinarski had reservations. “I’m always afraid kids are going to be sad when they learn the truth, and my son was coming home with stories of classmates getting $10 per tooth!” She says if he hadn’t accidentally knocked out several teeth and really wanted the Tooth Fairy to know, she may never have started the tradition in her home.

A 2013 study by Visa Inc. found that American kids now receive an average of $3.70 per lost tooth – a figure that increases yearly. Niagara Falls, Ont. mom Lisa Neutel leaves $1 for the smaller teeth and $2 for molars. Some homes offer a “first tooth bonus” or a warning that less money is left for teeth that show decay. Surveying other parents at your child’s school will give you a good idea of the “going rate”.

You may want to take note of what you do for your first child to ensure consistency. I never tire of reminding my parents that when I lost teeth and received two quarters, I was required to give one to my younger brother. However, when he started losing teeth…do you see where I’m going with this? It can also be fun to incorporate traditions based on your family’s cultural heritage (see sidebar). Some families introduce a special tooth fairy pillow or box into their tooth loss rituals, which can be either purchased or homemade (see Pinterest for inspiration).

If for some reason the Tooth Fairy does not stop by, be sure to check the calendar: one of my coworkers danced around that dilemma by telling her daughter that the Tooth Fairy only hits North America every other day!

Reading for Wiggly Teeth

Got a case of the wiggles? Read all about it!

Learn about tooth traditions from around the world in Throw Your Tooth on the Roof, by Selby B. Beeler. Children always love this book, which highlights tooth rituals from every continent. Did you know the Tooth Fairy is helped in various countries by a magic mouse or rabbit? Some cultures turn teeth into jewellery or bury them in meaningful locations. In many countries children throw their teeth: on the roof, in a tree, in a chicken coop or at the sun. Rewards can include good luck, money, or…a hen!


This Robert Munsch classic tells the story of Andrew’s crazy antics as he tries to get rid of his maddeningly loose tooth. Mom, Dad, the dentist and a biker-inspired Tooth Fairy are all powerless to extract the tooth, until Andrew’s buddy saves the day with the help of a dusting of pepper.


Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, June/July 2014.

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