It was as though the fate of the world hung by a thread. The ending was certain, but time stood still. The minutes seemed like hours, the hours like days. I found myself gazing into my beautiful daughter’s innocent eyes, wondering what to say and do. She was cheerful, thankfully. In fact, she thought the whole thing was pretty cool. She had a Dangler. One of those loose baby teeth that just won’t let go. The sliver of gum holding it prisoner was thinner than a hair but stronger, it seemed, than a violin string. Daughter’s little pink tongue played tetherball with the tooth, which she and her friends found hilarious. Me, not so much.
OLD WIVES’ TALES
A few centuries (well, a couple of hours) into this crisis of confidence I called Boca Raton pediatric dentist Dr. Drew Popper, of Junior Smiles. I’d seen enough cartoons to know about the string-and-doorknob solution. Not being an old wife, that particular tale didn’t inspire me. I was worried, though. What if this Dangler decided to let go in her sleep and she swallowed or inhaled it?
Dr. Popper, as always, was a rock. “I know how that is!” he chuckled. “Drives parents nuts. We want to just grab the kid’s tooth and yank it out. Feels like that dangler is mocking us. Am I right?”
I had to admit it, he was. Dr. Popper went on to explain that when a baby tooth’s time has come to move out and make way, the root begins to dissolve. The process is called resorption. It’s normal and healthy in kids losing baby teeth. As the root dissolves, the gum tissues lose their grip on it. Eventually, some everyday mild pressure from the kid’s tongue, toothbrush, finger, or banana frees it from that diminished grasp. You get a Dangler, like my daughter’s, when the root dissolves unevenly. Enough of it’s still there for the gum to keep its grip on.
LOOSE BABY TEETH – PULL ‘EM?
Okay, but what to do about loose baby teeth? About Danglers? Dr. Popper explained that my concerns about choking on a liberated baby tooth, or swallowing it, were unfounded. In fact, unless something unusual was going on, my daughter had already hit on the best approach: playing with it. “Just let kids do what kids do best!”, he quipped. He added that there are a few conditions in which the intervention of a pediatric dentist is called for. One of these has the ominous name “shark teeth”. Me being me, I asked him to have a look at my daughter anyway.
Twenty minutes later, in the car on the way to Junior Smiles – the blessed event. Of course. Stopped at a red light, I peeked back and there was my girl, casually inspecting the slightly bloody tooth in the palm of her hand. No pain, no mess. We drove on to Junior Smiles anyway, being almost there and, well, what’s not to like? Dr. Popper pronounced all well and promised to email a reminder to the Tooth Fairy.
For the future, he filled me in on two common signs that loose baby teeth need his attention. One is when a kid’s permanent tooth starts pushing past a Dangler. That’s “shark tooth”, because it’s normal in that particular fish. The other is when a loose baby tooth hangs in there for more than a week or two. That, he explained, can mean something’s not quite right with the permanent tooth behind it. In either case, an x-ray usually tells the story. We headed out for ice cream as Dr. Popper reminded me always to call him with any concerns or questions.