Losing baby teeth is a rite of passage. But once your child brings you that first tooth, what do you do next?
Many parents tuck it away somewhere, wondering whether it’s okay to toss – or whether doing so makes them heartless and unsentimental. Then subsequent teeth get tossed in the cupboard with the original, and soon you have a whole, accidental collection of baby teeth in a random bowl in your kitchen.
Your child will lose 20 teeth during the course of their childhood, so you need to have a plan – preferably before the first one falls out. Here is a comprehensive list of your options.
Tooth Fairy Money: I’m not here to tell you how much money to give your kids or whether you should “do” the whole Tooth Fairy thing. That’s up to you. But if you do opt for this route, you’ll find plenty of ideas online to make glitter money or gold coins. I get the appeal – it’s whimsical and fun. But mama, if you do it for your child’s first tooth you’re committed until they stop believing in the Tooth Fairy. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll have enough trouble coming up with cash on the spot. If you opt for this, you’ll have to come up with cash, glitter, AND do a craft project before you go to bed – every time they lose a tooth. Just make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before you get swept up in the first-tooth fun.
Keepsake Boxes: There are various keepsake boxes you can buy where you can store the teeth. Some even are “baby-book” style where you can display a photo of your toothless cutie. I’ll be honest. This isn’t really my thing but if you’re gonna keep the teeth, then this is probably the way to do it. Although think about why you’re keeping them. Is it because you treasure them and hope to keep them for yourself forever? Okay then, that’s fine. Or are you thinking that one day your adult child will be overjoyed when you hand them over as a memento of their childhood? Because I’ve heard of several parents for whom that was the catalyst that caused them to go home and toss all of their child’s teeth. Once their parents handed over their own, they realized how gross it really was – and that nobody really wants them all back one day.
Stem Cell Banking: Some parents preserve their kids’ teeth so the stem cells can be extracted and used for potential future medical treatment. It’s quite costly (between $1000-$2000 to set it up initially, and over $100 each year thereafter to store) and since embryonic stem cells are different than the ones found in baby teeth, at this time there really aren’t any current treatments available that use them. But medical research is making leaps and bounds every year, so it’s entirely within the realm of possibility that life-saving medical treatment may be available using stem cells from teeth for some conditions at some future time. I mean, it doesn’t sound super useful to me, but you do you.
Also – this needs to be facilitated by your local dentist, who may charge you an additional fee. The preserved teeth will either need to be removed by your dentist or they need to fall out naturally and be almost immediately given to your dentist (if they’ll even accept teeth they didn’t extract themselves) to send to the stem cell preservation people. So if you’re keeping them in your kitchen cabinet with the intent to preserve them at some point in the future, you’ve probably missed your window.
Baby Tooth Jewelry: You guys. I just can’t. Just go to Etsy and see all the things you can have done with your child’s baby teeth so you can wear them.
I’m sorry, but yuck.
Donate Them: Your local research hospital or university may have a need for baby teeth. Check with them to see if your child’s teeth could be used for the greater good. You may need to know about this in advance, though, as they may need fresh teeth. Some search-and-rescue dogs are also trained using baby teeth, so check with local training organizations and see if they might be interested.
Science Experiments: Scare your older kids into brushing their teeth by doing a science experiment that demonstrates that sugar will, in fact, rot your teeth.
Talk to Your Child: If you want to give your child a keepsake tooth, talk to them after they lose their first one. Strike a deal that they can ask the Tooth Fairy for a one-time “favor” to keep their very first tooth. This way you get a sentimental souvenir, but you don’t have to keep the whole entire set.
Throw Them Away: I mean, come on. This is the beauty of the Tooth Fairy. The child relinquishes their baby tooth, it magically disappears, and they get rewarded with money. This is why the Tooth Fairy was invented. So we could get rid of gross baby teeth without a fight from our kids. Why are we making this so hard on ourselves and trying to cling to something like discarded human waste as a trinket of our kid’s childhood? Just throw those babies in the trash, right along with your mom guilt.
I think it’s probably clear which side of the issue I’m on when it comes to this. In fact, my son asked if the Tooth Fairy was real before he even lost his first tooth.
So I told him the truth.
And now when teeth come out, I congratulate him, tell him to toss it in the trash, and let him fish around in my purse for loose change. He gets paid and I don’t have to do teeth.
It’s a win-win for everyone.
What do you do with your child’s baby teeth?