Do you remember losing your first tooth? I wiggled and pulled on mine constantly until it came out, and I could place it under my pillow — already dreaming of the tooth fairy visiting me with money or Pokémon cards like she gave my older brother. As a mom, I can't wait for my kids to reach that stage as well. But what do you do if the unthinkable happens: your 6-year-old accidentally swallows a baby tooth? POPSUGAR spoke with dentists to find out exactly how to handle this situation — and how you can explain it to the tooth fairy.
Should I Be Worried If My Child Swallows a Baby Tooth?
The dentists we spoke to are all in agreement: Swallowing a baby tooth is actually more common than you might think! "Swallowing a loose tooth can be a fairly normal, although sometimes a nerve-wracking experience," Mikaeya Kalantari, DDS, at Sunshine Smiles of Orange County, told POPSUGAR. In fact, most swallowed objects (including teeth) pass through the digestive system without causing any harm. "It normally takes about 24 to 48 hours for the tooth to digest," said Tiffanie Garrison-Jeter, DMD, general dentist and founder of Definition Dental and Wellness Spa.
However, you want to make sure the tooth actually ended up in your child's stomach. "If a child feels they have swallowed their tooth, the main concern is to ensure that they did not inhale it," Dr. Kalantari told POPSUGAR. "If your child was coughing, talking, or laughing during the time of swallowing the tooth, this increases the chances for inhalation. Also suspicious for inhalation is if the child coughs or gags after swallowing the tooth. Most of the time, however, the tooth is swallowed into the stomach where it will eventually pass." The dentists we spoke with assured us that although aspirating a tooth does happen, it is very rare.
So, if a child swallows a tooth and seems fine, then there is probably nothing to worry about! But, if they develop any unusual symptoms, call or visit your child's dentist right away.
What Should I Do If My Child Swallows a Baby Tooth?
The first thing to do is remain calm and reassure your kid that everything will be fine so they don't panic. Then, consider how your child swallowed the tooth — did it pop loose and accidentally end up in their tummy? Or was there a traumatic injury, such as a fall or a hit in the face? Then check to see if the tooth has accidentally entered your kid's airways — the chances of this are higher if the swallowing was caused by an injury. "If the tooth has been aspirated, you need to immediately seek medical help by calling 911 and taking your kid to the hospital to remove the tooth," said to Diana Wu, DDS, from Issaquah Premier Dental. "You do not need to take your kid to the doctor if the tooth is not in the airways and your kid is doing generally well."
Even if all seems well, it's best to be on the safe side and give your dentist a call. Here are some things the dentist will want to know, according to Nora Ghodousi-Zaghi, DDS, of The Breathe Institute.
- Is your child having difficulty breathing?
- Do they have a concussion, dizziness, headache, nausea, difficulty seeing, slurred speech, or amnesia?
- Do they have pain in the jaw, chest, or neck?
- Are there lacerations in the oral cavity or head/neck?
- Are they vomiting or feeling lethargic?
- Is there bleeding that hasn't stopped or bleeding in vomit or stool?
- Is there pain in the abdomen?
- Do they have a fever?
"If any of those answers are yes, your doctor may advise you to come in or go to the local pediatric urgent care or emergency room to get further medical attention," Dr. Ghodousi-Zaghi told POPSUGAR. Also continue to watch your child for symptoms like trouble swallowing and abdominal pain, said Dr. Garrison-Jeter. You should seek medical attention if those are present, too.
What Can I Do to Help If My Child Swallows a Baby Tooth?
After making sure your child is perfectly fine and in no danger, it's time for a little emotional support. Hug them, talk to them about their feelings, and come up with a creative solution to ensure the tooth fairy still comes.
"Comfort your child with emotional and physical reassurance that all will be OK," said Dr. Kalantari. "Offer cool, soft foods that can help soothe any soreness in the gum tissue. If a doctor's visit is required, reassure your child that the doctor will take care of them to get them feeling better quickly."
Also, don't forget about the tooth fairy! Help your kids explain the situation by writing a letter to the tooth fairy, so she will still bring money or toys for your kids while they sleep.