It might feel like it was just yesterday that your child’s baby teeth were starting to come in. But just a few years later, it’s already time for those baby teeth to start making way for permanent adult teeth.

Whether your little one already has a loose tooth or you’re getting ready for when they do, here’s everything to know about this next step in their dental development.

Below, we cover when kids start losing teeth, the process of losing a tooth and what to expect from adult teeth. We also give some oral care tips that can help your child’s permanent teeth last a lifetime.

When do kids lose their first tooth?

Children usually lose their first tooth around 5 or 6 years old. But every child is unique. Some will lose their first tooth as early as 4 years old or as late as 7 years old.

How many baby teeth do kids lose?

Kids have 20 baby teeth, which dentists call primary teeth. Usually, kids will lose all of their baby teeth to make room for their permanent teeth.

Occasionally, one or more baby teeth may stick around long after they’re supposed to have fallen out. If this is the case for your child, talk to their dentist. These “retained” teeth aren’t always a problem – sometimes it’s best to remove them, other times they can stay right where they are. It’ll take a physical exam and X-rays to know for sure.

Which baby teeth fall out first?

Much like the song “All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth),” kids’ front teeth are often the first to fall out. But again, every child is different. Children will usually continue to lose their baby teeth through age 12.

The timeline for losing baby teeth

You can typically expect your child’s baby teeth to fall out in the order they came in. The resulting timeline tends to look like this:

  • Central incisors: 6-7 years old
  • Lateral incisors: 7-8 years old
  • Canines: 9-12 years old
  • First molars: 9-11 years old
  • Second molars: 10-12 years old

Can kids lose their teeth too early?

Yes. When a child loses a tooth before the age of 4, it’s possible that the adult tooth may not grow in proper alignment. Typically, baby teeth help guide the new adult teeth as they erupt, so if your child loses a tooth before the adult teeth are ready to come in, misalignment is possible. It’s a good idea to check in with a dentist if your child loses their first tooth before their fourth birthday.

Is it normal for a child to lose their first tooth after 7 years old?

Though the first tooth usually falls out before a child turns 7, it’s okay to lose the first tooth later. A dentist can help by taking an X-ray to make sure that all the permanent teeth are still under the gums.

How can I prepare for my child’s first loose tooth?

Most of the time, there isn’t much you need to do about a loose tooth. Usually, the process of losing a tooth happens naturally.

Many kids don’t have much discomfort from a loose tooth, but it may feel weird to them. You can help by simply reminding them that it’s normal and nothing to be afraid of.

If your child feels soreness or discomfort, an ice pack or an age-appropriate dose of anti-inflammatory pain medication can help. And of course, if you want to get your child excited about losing teeth, you can get the Tooth Fairy involved.

The gum may bleed a bit once the tooth falls out. Usually, swishing their mouth out with water can take care of bleeding. But if the bleeding continues, have your child bite down on a piece of gauze. If bleeding lasts longer than an hour, contact your child’s dentist.

When do kids get adult teeth?

The permanent teeth that kids will have for the rest of their lives usually start coming in around age 6 – about the same time that they start losing their baby teeth. The first molars are usually the first permanent teeth to come in. Other permanent teeth will come in as their baby counterparts fall out.

Most people end up with 32 permanent teeth, including the third molars or wisdom teeth.

Oral care tips for kids: Answers to commonly asked questions

Permanent teeth are just that – permanent. And that means it’s important to practice good oral hygiene, even before they come in, so that teeth and gums stay as healthy as possible.

How often should my child brush their teeth?

Your child should brush their teeth twice a day, for at least two minutes. Make sure they’re using a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.

Does my child need to floss their teeth?

Yes. Your child’s teeth should be flossed daily, even if you have to do it for them at first – baby teeth need flossing too.

How often does my child need to see the dentist?

It’s recommended that you take your child to the dentist every 6 months or so. Regular preventive dental visits help catch issues as early as possible, and the dentist can partner with you to create a personalized oral care plan for your child. Because preventive appointments are so important, most dental insurance for kids cover them at 100% – meaning there's no cost to you.

Of course, you can also contact your child’s dentist outside of their regular appointment schedule if you have questions or concerns about something in your child’s mouth.

What else can I do for my child’s dental health?

In addition to brushing, flossing and regular dental appointments, a balanced diet is an important factor in keeping teeth healthy. The bacteria that cause tooth decay and cavities feed on sugar and starches, so minimizing how much sugar your child’s teeth are exposed to goes a long way. In particular, focus on limiting sugary fluids and chewy sweets that can stick to teeth.

Look after your child’s smile

Again, regular dental appointments are a key part of keeping your child’s teeth healthy. And if your child has permanent teeth coming in, it’s more important than ever to make sure they get all the care they need. A dentist can do exactly that.