Has your child been telling you all about their loose baby tooth every chance they get?

Awesome! There’s no need for the dentist. Baby teeth (primary teeth) are meant to fall out on their own to make room for permanent adult teeth (secondary teeth). This typically occurs when children are 6 or 7 years old. And it’s common for parents and their kids to make a game out of pulling out loose baby teeth.

But you shouldn’t pull your own adult teeth. Losing an adult tooth can threaten your tooth and gum health. Some common complications can include:

Let’s discuss the big differences between pulling a baby tooth and pulling out an adult tooth.

Baby teeth usually fall out without any help.

In fact, it’s important you don’t pull the baby tooth out too early. They help guide adult teeth in and help facial structures like the jaw develop.

But see your child’s dentist if the tooth is decaying. Bacteria or plaque can spread to nearby teeth if it’s not cleaned or treated. In many cases, the primary molars (near the back of the mouth) are the most commonly removed because they’re hard to reach with a toothbrush and have more surface area.

Here are some tips to help your child remove their own tooth:

  • Tell them to use their tongue to wiggle the tooth until it comes out.
  • Discourage them from poking the tooth with their hands. It’s easy to accidentally apply too much force to the tooth. Dirty hands can also introduce harmful bacteria into the mouth.
  • Don’t worry about blood. A tooth that comes out when it’s ready won’t bleed too much.
  • Have your child bite down on some gauze. Put gauze on the area quickly so that the blood clots fast. Dampened gauze may be better than dry gauze, which can stick to the area and cause more bleeding when removed.

Here are some fun ways you help your child pull out their tooth:

String and doorknob method

  1. Tie one end of a piece of string to a doorknob.
  2. Tie the other end of the string around the loose tooth.
  3. Shut the door, without slamming it too hard. The tooth should fly right out.

The doggy treat method

  1. Tie one end of a piece of string to your dog’s collar.
  2. Tie the other end of the string around the loose tooth.
  3. Throw a treat to your dog so that they run toward it.
  4. Bam! The tooth should come out swiftly.

The “fly ball” method

  1. Tie a string around a softball or baseball.
  2. Tie the other side of the string around the loose tooth.
  3. Throw the ball a few feet in the air.
  4. Hit the ball — but not too hard. The tooth should fly out with the ball.

Having an adult tooth pulled isn’t uncommon, but have a dentist pull it out using professional instruments.

Some reasons an adult tooth may be pulled out include:

Adult teeth are deeply rooted in your jaw and are surrounded by gums, nerves, and blood vessels. Pulling teeth out yourself can cause permanent damage to them or leave part of the tooth behind. This can lead to cavities, infection, and facial collapse. Your dentist can also use special instruments and procedures to stabilize the tooth or save it from decay or infection.

Avoid these dangerous “home remedies” for removing adult teeth:

  • Biting into an apple can push the tooth downward and cause gum or bone damage, or break the tooth.
  • Wiggling it with your fingers can introduce bacteria into your mouth and damage tooth structures.
  • Pulling it out with floss can yank tooth structures out, causing heavy bleeding and intense pain or even tooth breakage.

Many dental insurance plans cover tooth removal for a relatively low cost. A typical extraction costs between $75 to $800 per tooth.

If you’re not sure where to go, or don’t have dental insurance and can’t easily pay the full cost of the removal, here are few tips to get dental treatment quickly:

  • Visit the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website. This federal resource can point you in the right direction to get the most affordable care for dental hygiene and procedures.
  • Go to a community dental clinic. Many cities have free clinics that provide cleanings and basic dental procedures for people without dental insurance.
  • Go to your local emergency room. If you have medical but not dental insurance, a trip to the ER can help you get antibiotics for an infection or pain medication for discomfort.
  • Check out a dental school clinic. Dentistry students often work in low-cost university clinics to get experience in their craft.

Good daily dental hygiene is the best way to prevent long-term health problems and complications associated with your teeth, gums, and mouth.

Do the following to keep your teeth strong and healthy:

Children eventually lose their baby teeth. Baby teeth typically loosen when a child is 6 or 7 years old — the lower center incisors are usually the first to go. Pulling out loose baby teeth can be a fun family activity or even a way for your child to feel more independent and in control of their own body.

But adult teeth are permanent. A loose tooth can be a big problem.

Don’t pull an adult tooth out yourself. See your dentist right away to prevent any complications or health issues that can result from tooth problems or from not pulling out a tooth properly.