Do milk teeth hurt?

Losing milk teeth is a normal part of growing up for children. As adult teeth start to develop underneath the gums, milk teeth loosen and eventually fall out to make room for the permanent teeth. This process usually begins around age 6 and continues until around age 12 when all 20 milk teeth have been replaced. While losing milk teeth is a natural occurrence, the process can sometimes be uncomfortable or even painful for kids. This article will provide quick answers to common questions about milk teeth pain and offer more detailed explanations of the causes, symptoms, and treatments to help parents understand what to expect as those baby teeth start to wiggle and fall out.

Quick Answers on Milk Teeth Pain

Here are quick answers to some frequently asked questions about pain associated with losing milk teeth:

  • Do milk teeth hurt when they fall out? They may be sore, but serious pain is uncommon.
  • What causes pain with loose milk teeth? Pressure on the tooth roots as adult teeth push up can cause soreness. Infection from tooth decay can also lead to pain.
  • How long does milk tooth pain last? Discomfort is usually worst 1-2 days before the tooth falls out and improves once it’s lost.
  • What helps relieve milk tooth pain? Gentle oral hygiene, over-the-counter pain relievers, cold compresses, soft foods, and patience typically provide relief.
  • When should I call the dentist for milk tooth pain? Contact your dentist if pain persists more than 3-4 days, seems severe, or is accompanied by swelling in the gums or face.

Understanding Why Milk Teeth May Be Painful

Milk teeth, also called primary or deciduous teeth, serve an important purpose in dental development but are eventually lost and replaced by permanent teeth. Most kids have a full set of 20 primary teeth by age 3. As permanent teeth develop under the gums, the roots of milk teeth start to dissolve and the teeth loosen. This is a normal process, but one that can sometimes cause discomfort.

Here are some reasons why milk teeth may hurt as they become loose and fall out:

  • Pressure on tooth roots: Adult teeth exert pressure on the roots of milk teeth as they push up from below. This can make milk teeth feel sore or sensitive.
  • Infection: Tooth decay in milk teeth can reach the inner pulp and become infected. This infection puts pressure on the root and causes throbbing pain.
  • Gum inflammation: Swelling and inflammation of the gums around a loose milk tooth can cause soreness and pain.
  • Trauma: A knock or blow to a loose milk tooth may cause it to ache temporarily.
  • Food catching: Food particles caught under loose milk teeth can irritate the gums and cause discomfort.

While any of these issues may result in milk tooth pain, the most common cause is the pressure exerted as permanent teeth push through. This natural process can make milk teeth sensitive and uncomfortable as they become looser in the days and weeks before they fall out.

Signs Your Child’s Milk Tooth Hurts

How can you tell if your child is suffering from milk tooth pain? Here are some common signs and symptoms:

  • Complaining of mouth or tooth pain
  • Irritability, fussiness, crying
  • Trouble eating, chewing, or biting down
  • Swollen gums around the loose tooth
  • Redness or bleeding in gums
  • Bad breath
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods
  • Drooling
  • Rubbing jaw or cheek
  • Trouble sleeping

Your child may not always communicate clearly that they have tooth pain. But behaviors like difficulty eating, increased irritability, rubbing their cheek or jaw, and trouble sleeping may indicate discomfort from a loose or damaged milk tooth. Pay attention to such signs and watch for swelling or redness around the gums which may signal infection.

When to Expect Milk Tooth Pain

At what point in the milk tooth shedding process are children most likely to experience pain? Here’s an overview of when discomfort may occur:

  • 1-2 days before tooth falls out: This is often the peak time for pain and sensitivity as the loosening tooth puts pressure on the root and surrounding gums.
  • Day the tooth falls out: Pain and swelling may increase on the day the tooth comes out as the root exits the gum. This typically provides quick relief.
  • Few days after tooth falls out: Mild throbbing and tenderness can persist for several days as the gums heal.
  • No pain: Many kids have milk teeth fall out with no pain at all.

While the window right before and after the tooth becomes dislodged tends to be when kids experience the most discomfort, pain levels can vary. Some children report severe pain for a week prior and others have no pain at all. Pay attention to your child’s symptoms and comfort level throughout the tooth loosening and loss process.

Relieving Milk Tooth Pain

Seeing your little one experience tooth pain can be distressing. Fortunately there are several effective ways to relieve discomfort from loose, damaged, or infected milk teeth as they are about to fall out. Here are some tips:

Over-the-Counter Pain Relief

Children’s acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can help reduce milk tooth pain. Give an age-appropriate dose according to package directions. Oral benzocaine gels or rinses may also temporarily numb pain.

Cold Compress

Applying an ice pack or cold washcloth to the outer cheek near the sore tooth can minimize pain and swelling. Have your child hold the cold compress in place for 10-15 minutes at a time.

Dental Hygiene

Practicing gentle but thorough oral hygiene can flush out food debris and soothe inflamed gums. Brush teeth carefully using a soft toothbrush. Warm salt water rinses can also help reduce gum irritation.

Soft Foods

Sticking to cool, soft foods like yogurt, apple sauce, ice cream, mashed potatoes, broths, and overcooked pastas minimizes pressure on sensitive loosening milk teeth.

Pain Management Techniques

Distraction, relaxation techniques, massage, and cognitive behavioral methods are additional ways to help kids handle milk tooth pain.

Tooth Extraction

For severe tooth decay or infection causing protracted pain, dentists may recommend extracting the problematic milk tooth rather than waiting for it to fall out on its own.

When to See the Dentist for Milk Tooth Pain

While most soreness from loose milk teeth resolves on its own or responds well to simple home remedies, sometimes dental intervention is needed. See a pediatric dentist right away if your child has:

  • Severe mouth pain that lasts more than 3-4 days
  • Swelling in gums or face
  • Bleeding in gums that won’t stop
  • Bad taste or odor from mouth
  • A fever along with tooth pain
  • Difficulty opening mouth or chewing
  • A knocked out or broken tooth
  • A loose tooth that shows no sign of falling out after 4-6 months

These symptoms may indicate a problem like an abscess, infected tooth, or damaged tooth root. Leaving these issues untreated can allow infection to spread. The dentist will examine your child’s mouth and may recommend antibiotics, root canal treatment on the milk tooth, or extraction for prompt relief.


It’s common for milk teeth to hurt sometimes as they loosen and fall out to make way for permanent teeth. Pressure on the roots, gum irritation, and infection are common causes of this discomfort. Pain is often worst right before the tooth becomes dislodged. Over-the-counter pain relief, cold compresses, soft foods, oral hygiene, and using distraction can typically ease milk tooth discomfort. But seek prompt dental care if pain seems severe or doesn’t improve within several days. With patience and the right remedies, you can help your child stay comfortable throughout this natural but sometimes painful milestone.

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