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Your Child's Baby Teeth: To Pull Or Not To Pull?

Little boy looking at his first lost tooth.
Little boy looking at his first lost tooth.

Losing your baby teeth is all part of growing up, but it can be pretty disconcerting talking to a seven-year-old whose front tooth is hanging by a thread.

That said, it might not be the best idea to string the tooth to a door handle and then slam the door shut (did anyone else's parents threaten them with this?).

So how best do you manage the loss of your child's baby teeth? Is it wise to pull them out or just leave them alone? And, most importantly, what's the going rate for the tooth fairy these days?

"Fortunately the majority of baby teeth fall out by themselves, which is lucky, because kids have 20 baby teeth to lose and you don't want to have an ordeal every single time," Dr Peter Alldritt, Chair of the Australian Dental Association’s Oral Health Committee told The Huffington Post Australia.

"Ideally you want it to happen quickly and naturally."

Of course, as is often the case with kids, sometimes it just isn't that simple.

"Some children get a bit petrified of their own teeth when they are wobbly and don’t touch them," Alldritt said. "You get that situation where it's sticking out like Nanny McPhee and you just know it's been lingering there for way too long. The gum can get inflamed and swollen, and if it's looking like that, you really want to pull that little baby tooth out.

"The best way to go about it, if it's already really loose, is to hold it with your fingers and rotate it slowly. That should make it come out. Alternatively, wobbling it back and forth can work equally as well.

"If you're finding it's a bit slippery, grab a bit of bandage or gauze and put it over the tooth. That will help give you a better grip."

In terms of what not to do, slamming a door which is attached to your child's loose tooth is definitely up there.

"Honestly, my father used to say that to me when I was a child and that was decades ago," Alldritt said. "Funnily enough I still hear that from parents now. I’m sure it’s a old wives tale. No one I know has actually done it.

"Just to be clear, I do not recommend that method."

This is NOT an ideal solution.

Justin Coulson, one of Australia’s leading parenting experts and author 21 Days To a Happier Family, encourages parents to take the lead from their child.

"I would be guided by your children on this one," Coulson told HuffPost Australia. "Some are enthusiastic about the tooth coming out and are willing to submit themselves to untold levels of pain in order to get it out, whereas others are more tentative and might want to work it out themselves.

"Whichever it is, you really shouldn’t push one way or the other. For instance, a Dad who wants to help his son 'be a man' and be tough by ripping it out -- if a child is not on board with that, it can be a pretty traumatic thing."

Other no-nos include giving the child something hard or sticky to chew on in the hope it will dislodge the offending tooth.

"I wouldn’t give kids something to chew on or bite on in order to get the tooth to fall out, so not toffees or Minties or anything like that," Alldritt said.

"The same goes with something hard. I hear of parents giving children something hard and saying, 'bite on that, see if you can make the tooth fall out,' but I would absolutely not do that.

"If you think about it, all it's going to do is probably put pressure on something else, or even break the baby tooth into pieces. Then you have a bigger problem on your hands as you're not waiting for one tooth to fall out, but a tooth that's split in half.

"The 'Mintie method' does actually come up from time to time though. The parent will say, 'we gave him a couple of Minties and that still didn't get it out.' It's certainly not a method I would endorse."

Sometimes, however, Alldritt says it can be apparent a tooth isn't going to budge, and in that case, you might want to visit a dental practitioner.

"There are going to be cases where no one can take that tooth out at home, and you're going to need to take the child to a dentist and get them to take it out," Alldritt said.

"Particularly if a baby tooth hasn't fallen out yet and the adult tooth is already coming down. Then you have two teeth trying to fit in one space, and that's not going to work.

"The longer that baby tooth hangs around, the more likely the adult tooth will go in the wrong place."

Many children will want to work out the tooth themselves.

In terms of the tooth fairy, it really comes down to the parent as to what they want to tell their children.

"I have a controversial opinion on the tooth fairy. My children are allowed to believe in the tooth fairy, though I don't necessarily endorse that belief," Coulson said.

"Personally, I believe it's important to be honest with our children. However, if they are believing and not questioning, I'm not into bursting their bubble either.

"As for the tooth fairy's 'going rate,' I'd say it depends on the age of the child and the family's individual circumstances.

"I know lots of people still giving silver to younger children, and then I know people who will drop a 10 or 20 dollar note.

"The tooth fairy in our home just drops off whatever change happened to be around when the tooth was lost.

"I will say something though, for younger kids, lots of coins is worth more than one coin of a larger domination. So why not give them ten twenty cent coins rather than the gold two dollar coin?

"My advice would be to try not to get too caught up in it. It's fun, but at the end of the day, don’t take the tooth fairy stuff too seriously."

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