How to Pull Baby Teeth

When Do Baby Teeth Fall Out?

Chart of human baby teeth
Chart of human baby teeth

When permanent or “adult” teeth start to come in, baby teeth get ready to move out of the way. This happens when permanent teeth take over the roots of the baby ones. The baby teeth then loosen until they fall out. Most children start losing teeth around age 6.

The front teeth tend to fall out first. Molars (larger teeth at the back of the mouth) typically fall out when children are between the ages of 10 and 12.

If your child has a wiggly tooth, you might feel the urge to pull it for him. Here’s what you need to know first.

When Is It OK to Pull Baby Teeth?

Many baby teeth fall out on their own. Or children pull them with their fingers or tongue. Once a tooth goes from loose to truly “wiggly,” only a small amount of tissue holds it in place. That usually makes it easy for children to remove their own loose teeth. But if that loose tooth hanging on by a thread bothers your little one, she may ask you to pull the tooth for her. 

It’s probably OK to remove your child’s tooth if she is nearly 6 or older and the tooth: 

  • Is very loose, just hanging on by a little bit of tissue
  • Loosened on its own, not because of a dental problem or accident

It’s not OK to pull a tooth if:

  • It’s barely loose, even if it’s been that way for a long time. The socket may bleed and hurt more than necessary if you pull a tooth that’s only a little loose.
  • Your child has had an accident or a dental problem that made the tooth loose.
  • He is under age 5. Baby teeth that come out too early can lead to issues like crooked teeth later.

If you’re not sure whether it’s OK to help pull a loose tooth, call the dentist.

What’s the Best Way to Remove Baby Teeth?

It’s usually best to let teeth fall out on their own or let your kids pull their own loose teeth. But if your son or daughter wants help, here’s how to do it:

  1. If your little one is worried about pain, place a clean ice pack on the gum near the tooth for a few minutes to numb the area.
  2. With a clean tissue, gauze, or piece of paper towel, grip the tooth. 
  3. Quickly but gently twist the tooth until it falls out.

Here’s what not to do:

  • Don’t tie a string around the tooth to pull it out. That’s not a safe way to pull a tooth. It can cause pain and other problems.
  • Don’t twist the tooth for a long time. If it takes more than a twist or two, the tooth may not be ready to come out.
  • Don’t keep twisting or wiggling if it causes your child pain. If your child is in pain, see the dentist.

When Should Your Child See the Dentist?

Call your dentist if your child has:

  • A baby tooth that stays a little loose but doesn’t get looser or come out for 6 months or longer
  • Lost most of his baby teeth, but one or more teeth aren’t coming out (The dentist might need to remove the tooth.)
  • Pain or signs of infection (like swollen gums or pain) 
  • A loose tooth from an accident
References
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American Academy of Pediatrics, HealthyChildren.org: “When Children Begin to Lose Their Baby Teeth.”

American Dental Association, MouthHealthy.org: “My Child’s Tooth Is About to Fall Out. Should I Help Him Take It Out?”

Queensland Government, Australia: “Extractions (Removal) of Baby Teeth.”

Sivan Finkel, DMD, clinical instructor at New York University’s School of Dentistry, New York City.
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