By Kelly Gunzenhauser

My son is walking around with one of his bottom teeth dangling by a thread. It’s bothering him when he eats, and of course his tongue is always moving it around. When I told him it might be time to pull it, I got a big whimper and hands clamped over the mouth.

I said, “I don’t want you to swallow it!” He asked, “If I do, will I die?” I explained that no, we would just have to leave a note for the tooth fairy, and she likes teeth better than notes. But as far as pulling his tooth, I don’t know what to do, and here’s why.

When I was a kid, I was the world’s biggest dental chicken. Anyone who went to the kids’ dentist in Winston-Salem knows why—he was brutal. My own parents were pretty no-nonsense when it came to my baby teeth. One Saturday morning, one of my top front teeth was hanging by a thread. My parents realized it and pinned me down to yank it out. It didn’t hurt at all but it scared me to death!

The next morning, I jumped into my parents’ bed to wake them up, and accidentally bashed my other front tooth on my mom’s hipbone. (I know, serves me right for jumping in their bed at some early hour.) I now had another loose tooth. You can guess what happened—again! This time, it did hurt some, and I came up with a huge lisp and no front teeth. (It was summertime, so I couldn’t request new ones for Christmas.)

This trauma changed me forever. It turned me into a voracious tooth-puller. I would resolutely pull my own teeth, even when they only showed slight signs of loosening. I remember I had to work on one canine for over an hour in front of the mirror before I managed to pry it out. It smarted, but it was better than being held down again. Sorry, I know about half of you are gagging now.

So here’s my question: How do you get your kids’ teeth out? Pull them in their sleep? Tie a string around them and slam the door? Wait until they just fall out on their own? By the time this runs, that tooth will surely be out, and I will add an update, but I would still love to know how to coax my little one to deal with his future loose teeth.

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