Nav: Home

Loss of first baby tooth a positive experience for children

October 24, 2018

Scared, ashamed, happy or proud - how do children feel when they lose their first baby tooth? An interdisciplinary research group at the University of Zurich has now found that children's feelings are predominantly positive. The study also reveals that previous visits to the dentist's as well as parental background and level of education affect how children experience the loss of their first tooth.

Deciduous teeth, more commonly known as milk or baby teeth, are the first set of teeth that develop in children. These teeth usually fall out and are replaced by permanent teeth. Children generally lose their first baby tooth when they're about six years old: The tooth comes loose and eventually falls out, leaving a gap which is then permanently filled by its replacement tooth. This gradual process is probably one of the first biological changes to their own bodies that children experience consciously. The emotions that accompany this milestone are extremely varied, ranging from joy at having finally joined the world of grown-ups to fear about the loss of a body part.

Parents report positive reactions

An interdisciplinary team of dental researchers and developmental and health psychologists at the University of Zurich, in cooperation with the City of Zurich's School Dental Services, has now examined the feelings that children experience when they lose their first baby tooth, and which factors are at play. The scientists surveyed parents of children who had already lost at least one of their milk teeth. Of the nearly 1,300 responses received for the study, around 80 percent of parents reported positive feelings, while only 20 percent told of negative emotions. Raphael Patcas, first author of the study, is happy with the findings: "The fact that four out of five children experience the loss of a baby tooth as something positive is reassuring, for parents and dentists alike."

The longer it's loose, the better the feelings

The researchers found that previous visits to dentists played a role when it comes to children's feelings. Children whose previous visits were cavity-related and thus perhaps associated with shame or guilt experienced fewer positive emotions when they later lost their first baby tooth. If, however, previous dental appointments were the result of an accident, and thus an abrupt, unexpected and painful event, then the loss of the first milk tooth was more likely to be associated with positive emotions. According to dental researcher Raphael Patcas, one possible explanation for this is that baby teeth loosen gradually before falling out - a process that, unlike an accident, unfolds slowly and predictably. This is also supported by the fact that children who experience the loosening of their tooth over an extended period of time tend to have more positive feelings: The longer the preparation and waiting time, the greater the relief and pride when the tooth finally falls out.

Parental education and background matter

Moreover, the study also found that sociodemographic factors are related to children's feelings: For example, children were more likely to have positive feelings such as pride or joy if the parents had a higher level of education and came from non-Western countries. The researchers indicate that cultural differences could be at play here: These include education style and norms that parents pass on to their children, as well as transitioning rituals that accompany the loss of the first baby tooth.

"Our findings suggest that children deliberately process previous experiences concerning their teeth and integrate them in their emotional development," says Moritz Daum, UZH professor of developmental psychology. This finding is important for dentists and parents alike: "Especially where cavities are concerned, it's worth communicating with children prudently", says Daum. "This way, emotions in connection with teeth and dentists can be put on the most positive trajectory possible."
-end-


University of Zurich

Related Emotions Articles:

Do ER caregivers' on-the-job emotions affect patient care?
Doctors and nurses in emergency departments at four academic centers and four community hospitals in the Northeast reported a wide range of emotions triggered by patients, hospital resources and societal factors, according to a qualitative study led by a University of Massachusetts Amherst social psychologist.
The 'place' of emotions
The entire set of our emotions is mapped in a small region of the brain, a 3 centimeters area of the cortex, according to a study conducted at the IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, Italy.
Faking emotions at work does more harm than good
Faking your emotions at work to appear more positive likely does more harm than good, according to a University of Arizona researcher.
Students do better in school when they can understand, manage emotions
Students who are better able to understand and manage their emotions effectively, a skill known as emotional intelligence, do better at school than their less skilled peers, as measured by grades and standardized test scores, according to research published by the American Psychological Association.
How people want to feel determines whether others can influence their emotions
New Stanford research on emotions shows that people's motivations are a driving factor behind how much they allow others to influence their feelings, such as anger.
Moral emotions, a diagnotic tool for frontotemporal dementia?
A study conducted by Marc Teichmann and Carole Azuar at the Brain and Spine Institute in Paris (France) and at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital shows a particularly marked impairment of moral emotions in patients with frontotemporal dementia (FTD).
Emotions from touch
Touching different types of surfaces may incur certain emotions. This was the conclusion made by the psychologists from the Higher School of Economics in a recent empirical study.
Negative emotions can reduce our capacity to trust
It is no secret that a bad mood can negatively affect how we treat others.
Study examines how sensitivity to emotions changes across the lifespan
Why do we become more positive as we grow older?
Face it. Our faces don't always reveal our true emotions
When it comes to reading a person's state of mind, visual context -- as in background and action -- is just as important as facial expressions and body language, according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley.
More Emotions News and Emotions Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.