All About Baby Teeth
A child’s first set of teeth is called their “baby teeth” – 20 primary teeth that will gradually be replaced by a full set of 32 adult teeth. Baby teeth hold the places in the mouth for adult teeth to come in. Although we lose this first set of teeth, it’s important to take care of baby teeth and establish good dental health early. Knowing when baby teeth develop and how to care for these primary teeth is a great start to giving your child a lifetime of smiles.
A Baby Tooth Timeline
The cells that eventually become our baby teeth form in the fetus after just a few weeks of development. Then, tooth growth begins soon after birth. Teething can start as early as three months old in some babies. Most babies cut their first tooth around when they are in the range of 4 to 7 months old, and usually have a full set of 20 teeth by the time they turn three. Baby teeth start coming in with the teeth at the front and center of our mouths, the incisors. Although there’s some variation, usually the lower incisors are the first teeth to come in, followed soon after by the upper incisors which come in around 6 to 8 months of age. As a general rule, baby teeth will emerge as pairs.
After the first central incisors grow, they will be flanked by 4 more incisors – the lateral incisors – which come in when the baby is 9 to 12 months old. Next, the first set of molars arrive toward the back of the mouth, at about one year of age or shortly after. At around a year and a half old, toddlers get their canine teeth, the sharp pointed teeth that come in between the incisors and the first molars. There is often a short gap in teething between when the first 16 baby teeth to come in and the when the last 4 arrive.
The final baby teeth are the second molars which grow in behind the baby’s first molars, usually when the child is between the ages of two to three years. The sequence baby teeth arrive in can vary from child to child, as can the ages at which the teeth come in. Give your child’s baby teeth 12 months of leeway – if they haven’t come in by a year after their anticipated timeframe, check with us at Fox Kids’ Dentistry & Orthodontics.
Permanent Tooth Development
Starting around age six, a child’s baby teeth will begin falling out and their permanent, adult teeth will grow in. Baby teeth fall out in roughly the same order as they came in and the process will be gradual, with all baby teeth replaced by age 12 or 13. The overall process of our adult teeth coming in ends years later, in the late teens or early twenties, with the emergence of wisdom teeth.
Taking Care of Baby Teeth
Caring for your baby’s teeth begins before there are any visible teeth to care for. In the first months of a baby’s life their gums should be wiped gently with a clean cloth using just warm water. When the process of teething starts there is often visible redness and swelling in the gums. To alleviate discomfort, a baby can be offered a teething ring or a clean, wet washcloth. When baby teeth erupt, brush them twice a day with a soft-bristle baby toothbrush and a “smear” of fluoridated toothpaste. A pea-sized amount can be used after three years of age, when all baby teeth are in place.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
A common problem with baby teeth is baby bottle tooth decay where a sugary liquid prematurely encourages cavities and tooth rot. Most often this is linked to babies that have fallen asleep while sucking on a bottle. Any liquid with sugar in it, including juice, formula and even breast milk, can cause this tooth decay. The best way to ward against baby bottle tooth decay is to clean a baby’s gums and teeth thoroughly after all meals. If bottle-feeding is being used to encourage sleep, use bottles with just water in them so there’s no risk of sugar residue being in a child’s mouth while they sleep. Reserve breast milk and other liquids to the daytime when a child’s mouth can be cleaned afterwards.
For more information on baby teeth, give us a call at Fox Kids Dentistry & Orthodontics.