What should I tell my child when he says, “Everybody else has lost a tooth”?

      Losing a first tooth is a milestone for children. From kindergarten on, they look forward to the event as a sign that they are truly growing up. Adults often forget how important the experience is and how devastated a child can feel if he’s one of the last in his group to have a loose tooth.

      If your child is upset because he has “slow teeth,” spend time listening to him and reassuring him. Even though his problem is a mild one, don’t lightly dismiss his unhappiness because his feelings are very real. He wants to experience what his friends and classmates have gone through. If he has older siblings, he’s seen them get money or a gift along with a lot of attention for losing teeth. It’s natural that he wants to be part of this.

      He may have a kindergarten or first grade teacher who makes a fuss over lost teeth. Some classrooms have colorful wall charts showing how many teeth each student has lost, and some teachers offer special privileges on the day a tooth comes out. This can be hard for some kids, especially those with end-of-the-year birthdays who are likely to lose teeth later than their older classmates. If your child is unhappily waiting for his first loose tooth, such schools activities may make him feel worse.

      Fortunately, you can promise him that he’ll lose a tooth. While you wait, you can read him some comforting books about other children in his situation. One mother wrote soothing notes to her child, saying that the tooth fairy knew all about him and would be visiting one day. Other parents suggest that their six- or seven-year-olds wiggle their front teeth looking for a hint of movement. Even if it takes months for a tooth to fall out, a child will feel better as soon as he detects a bit of looseness.

      Occasionally, the first tooth a child loses is one a dentist extracts. If your child has to go through this procedure because of dental problems, talk to him about what will happen. If he’s anxious, let the dentist, know and ask for help in reassuring your child. If your child wants you close by during the extraction, plan to stay with him. However, if you anticipate an outburst, you might want to send him off with just the dentist and assistant. Some children are more in control of their emotions when their parents aren’t with them.

      Before and after the tooth is pulled, tell your child about the “treasure” he’ll get at the dentist’s office and the surprise he’ll find under his pillow. Even though the extraction is unpleasant, when it’s done, he’ll still have the excitement of having lost his first tooth.

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