By Shannon Magsam, Ladybug’s mama
December 2007: I sat on my 5-year-old daughter’s bed at 10:28 on a school night silently berating myself for letting her drink hot chocolate at Tim’s Pizza earlier. We had been out with her little friend’s family after a Partytime Ponies birthday party — where she had already consumed a chocolate cupcake and a juice box.
Anyway, she couldn’t sleep. I was sitting beside her, reading, hoping she’d start that tell-tale twitching that meant she was really asleep.
“Mama, how did you eat with no teeth?” she asked suddenly.
Momentarily confused, I asked, “What do you mean?”
“After all your teeth fell out,” she explained.
Ah. She was concerned that her baby teeth would all start to topple out of her mouth like dominoes. Once the first one fell, it was all over and she’d have to resort to strained pears. I assured her that her teeth would fall out slowly and would be replaced by grown-up teeth.
On to the next concern: “I hope my last tooth doesn’t fall out at school. That would be so embarrassing.”
Hmmm. “How come?” I asked.
“It would be embarrassing to have none teeth,” she answered.
Fast forward to September 2008: When I picked Ladybug up from school recently she was ebullient. “My tooth is wiggly!” she shouted.
“Really?!” I shouted back, then “Buckle up! We’re almost to the real road.”
When we stopped just before heading out on the main road, I reached back and stuck my finger into her mouth for verification. I’ve heard tell of wiggly teeth before. But she was right. This WAS a wiggly tooth.
When I turned left out of the school parking lot the view was blurry for a while.
“My little girl is growing up,” went through my head, ever so corny, yet true.
The truth is, she’s been dying for this day. (After I convinced her they all wouldn’t fall out at once, that is.) Before kindergarten ended last year, Ladybug had a few snaggle-toothed friends. She often thought a tooth was loose, then, with extra wiggling, realized it was just a figment of her imagination.
The wiggling made me think about the last time we’d been to the dentist. Bad mom phrases danced in my head. She’d been brushing her teeth by herself for a while and I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to the inside of her mouth in recent weeks. Unfortunately, a few days later, Ladybug was laughing uproariously out in the sunlight and I spotted it: a mottled-looking tooth. Uh-oh.
I decided we better get to the dentist STAT.
Sure enough, a cavity. And two wiggly teeth! And a new tooth already growing in behind one of the wiggly teeth.
I told her she’d better get to wiggling so that other one could grow in properly.
I asked my friends how long it took their kids’ teeth to fall out and they all groaned. “Weeks!” they said knowingly.
Well, at least the Tooth Fairy will have a heads-up.
Recently some moms in my e-mail group were talking about the going rate for a kids’ tooth.
The consensus was $1 apiece, with one mom saying her daughter adored a single gold coin equaling a dollar. One mom said she often leaves a note about the castle made out of teeth (wasn’t that an Arthur episode?) or a little “fairy dust” (a.k.a. glitter) scattered around the pillow.
My favorite suggestion was buying a Petit Four from Rick’s Bakery. This mom’s daughter considered it a perfect fairy-sized cake. The problem, I think, is knowing when to purchase said fairy cake. Because it could take weeks for the cake to be needed, as we now know.
The moms also had a few suggestions about accelerating project tooth eject: eat an apple; have a younger child throw a book at her (not recommended, but this is really how one mom’s siblings “helped” each other out); by “sawing” back and forth on the roots with one of those kid dental floss pick thingies; or just plain old tongue action on the loose tooth.
Not long ago, I asked local pediatric dentist Jeffrey Ward a few questions about when kids’ teeth start to fall out.
What’s the average age to lose a tooth? Typically around age 6, he told me. He said the permanent molars also start to come in on bottom back and top (unfortunately, this is where my child’s cavity is located. On her ADULT molar. Bad mom, bad mom…) He said kids often will get headaches when these teeth start coming in. He recommends sealant on those back molars (why, oh why didn’t I heed his advice?) since kids often have trouble getting to those back teeth with their toothbrush.
Which tooth is usually the first one to go? The two on the bottom front, usually, but Dr. Ward said he had seen “every kind of pattern.” There are 20 baby teeth — a total of 32 teeth altogether (including the 12-year-old molars) and wisdom teeth.
At what age should parents be concerned if a child hasn’t lost a tooth yet? Dr. Ward said his own nephew didn’t lose a tooth until a week before the child’s 8th birthday, so there’s a lot of leeway.
How long will it take for the permanent teeth to come in? He said it can be a few months, six months or even up to a year for the permanent teeth to arrive. Often the bottom permanent teeth will come in quick, but that’s sometimes not the case with those on the top.
Do all the baby teeth fall out in secession? After the first round of baby teeth fall out (four on bottom, four on top) there will be a break for two to three years before children lose more around age 8 or 9 (six on bottom, six on top), Dr. Ward said. Some will lose the first round of eight teeth in a span of a few months, but others will take a year or two.
Dr. Ward agreed that the going rate for the Tooth Fairy is $1 per tooth.
That wasn’t the case when he first started losing his teeth.
“I just got a dime,” he said.
*Ladybug fairy photo courtesty of A Kid’s Heart website