Easing the fear about losing a first tooth
Kellie Goldfield, a Montreal mom of three, says her 5-year-old daughter Rachel’s initial excitement turned to fear soon after she discovered a loose tooth. Rachel had heard from classmates that when it falls out, there could be a lot of pain and blood. And there was talk about the possibility of swallowing the tooth. Goldfield, who describes her daughter as “very sensitive,” says Rachel became extremely worried. Her mother tried everything, from reading books to talking to her about the upcoming visit from the tooth fairy. But nothing seemed to help.
Dr. Kenneth Morehouse, a dentist with a practice in St. Lambert, has great sympathy for kids who are fearful of losing teeth. He says that the sharing of scary stories among kids is one of the biggest reasons little ones tend to develop this fear.
Parents can play an important role during this time. “Tell them it’s normal to lose teeth and that everyone goes through it.” The family dentist can also be an ally, especially if you’ve been taking your children regularly for check-ups and have built up a trusting relationship. The dentist can gently explain what will happen to the baby teeth. “Sometimes when it is an authority figure telling them it’s a normal thing to go through, it can make things a bit better,” Morehouse says. Goldfield, for example, called her dentist’s office and explained the problem. “They suggested that I not talk about it. I could just be making it worse. They said I should only discuss it if she brings it up.”
However, the fear may persist and parents will need to be patient and comfort their child as best they can. Thankfully (for both daughter’s and mommy’s sake) Rachel’s tooth did finally come out, with no problems. “Once it was out, it bled for two seconds,” Goldfield says.” Rachel was perfectly fine and was immediately super excited to start working on her card for the tooth fairy, and to show everyone on the planet her little tiny baby tooth. Now, a second baby tooth is wiggly and, happily, Rachel is considerably less nervous about the process.
Like many childhood fears — such as scary monsters in the closet or worries about being sucked down the drain of the bathtub — this one shall pass, usually once a kid loses that first tooth and gets a visit from the tooth fairy. Know that your child is not alone with her fears, and that other families are eagerly awaiting the day the little pearly white object falls out and the grumbling and crying ebbs away.
Tools for surviving tooth loss
There are several books that deal with the topic of losing teeth:
Arthur’s Tooth by Marc Brown
Truman’s Loose Tooth by Kristine Wurm
Trevor’s Wiggly-Wobbly Tooth by Lester L. Laminack
Junie B., First Grader: Toothless Wonder by Barbara Park.
There are also many whimsical kid-friendly products such as tooth fairy certificates (there are several free downloadable versions available online) or specially-made tooth fairy pillows (some can even be monogrammed) — go to www.ultimatetoothfairy.com for lots of great products.
The 5 Ws of losing that first tooth
Dentist (and dad) Dr. Kenneth Morehouse answers the five Ws of losing a first tooth.
WHEN do kids start losing teeth?
It varies quite a bit. It usually starts around the age of 6 but a child can be 8 before they lose their first tooth.
WHY is it okay to work a tooth until it falls out?
It doesn’t harm your child’s tooth or gums if he or she fiddles with the tooth, but the child’s fingers should be clean.
WHAT happens if the child swallows the tooth?
While this is a lot less common than most parents may think, there is no risk if they ingest it. (Finding it again for the tooth fairy is another story!)
WHERE should kids brush when they’ve lost teeth?
Everywhere. Brushing all over is still important, especially when new adult teeth are coming through. Also, minimize junk food such as soda and candy.
WHO is setting the tooth fairy payment standard?
The parents are and the range is vast depending on a family’s income. However, $5 per tooth seems to be the going rate for many families.