Baby Teeth Basics (They’re a Big Deal!)
Although baby didn’t come out of the womb with teeth, did you know that as soon as he enters the world he has already pretty much formed the crowns for all his baby teeth? You can’t see them yet because they’re hiding in the jawbones. One by one or, usually, two by two, baby teeth make their debut. This is not one of those milestones, like a first step, that you could miss if you blink. It’s usually a process that baby will make sure you know about!
Generally speaking, baby will sprout his first tooth anywhere from 6 to 10 months old. Before you go marking your calendar, teething is no different than milestones like talking and walking in that there is no magical time you can bank on it to start.
Before one of those baby teeth breaks the gum, there are plenty of teething signs to warn you the big event is almost here. From drooling to sometimes even a fever, baby teeth announce themselves loud and proud when they’re ready to come out. That’s why teething can be a real challenge for baby or mom.
While many products on the market can help ease teething pain, they may not all be safe for baby. In fact, the FDA warns parents not to use homeopathic teething tablets or gels or any over-the-counter benzocaine gels (the last of which can lower the oxygen content carried in the bloodstream). Instead, use a cold washcloth compress and extra TLC to help ease the pain.
If baby teeth don’t sprout by around the 15-month mark, you should check with your pediatrician or dentist, advises Monica Cipes, DMD, MSD, of Cipes Pediatric Dentistry in West Hartford, Connecticut. Although there is a range of variability, this is a good time to check in to make sure everything is a-okay.
By the time your child has a full mouth of baby teeth, 20 teensy pearly whites will be in place. (This is a whopping 12 teeth fewer than what he’ll have by the time he’s around 21.) These 20 teeth—10 on top and 10 on the bottom— will have different shapes and sizes, and, as the American Dental Association points out, together they give baby’s little face its unique shape and form.
Just as babies will get their teeth in at different times, the baby teeth order will also vary. Generally speaking, symmetry is involved. “If you get one middle lower tooth, then you [will soon] usually get the pair,” Cipes says. But don’t freak out if this doesn’t happen. Remember, baby teeth grow at the beat of their own drum. The baby teeth chart below gives you a pretty good idea of what you can typically expect when it comes to baby teeth growth.
Those middle lower teeth (central incisors) are usually the first two to come in, followed by their neighbors upstairs (upper central incisors). “The alternating pattern of eruption of bottom teeth and then the corresponding top teeth continues from there,” says Kate Glazer, DMD, MS, of Shoreline Children’s Dentistry, in Guilford, Connecticut. After that—typically around the first-year mark—the big ones start coming in: baby’s first molars! By age 2-and-a-half, you should see a full set of baby teeth—but even by age 3 is normal, says Julia Bonks, DDS, of ConnectiKIDZ Pediatric Dentistry in Derby, Connecticut. And the growing doesn’t stop there! At age 6, it’s the start of bye-bye, baby teeth: Your child’s first permanent molars start to appear.
Basically, right away. Now that baby has brand-new teeth, they’ll need to be cared for as carefully as you do your own. Baby needs healthy teeth not only for chewing food properly but also for pronouncing words correctly once he starts to talk. Learn how to brush baby teeth to start good hygiene habits early on.
The timing of losing baby teeth differs from child to child. Typically, the tooth fairy’s first visit comes around age 6. But it’s quite possible that a child won’t start losing baby teeth until age 5 or 8. “It is a case of first one in, first one out, with the lower central incisors,” Glazer says. She adds that you can expect the last of the primary teeth to fall out at about age 12, with the second molars. That’s because those baby teeth need to go away to make room for the permanent teeth.
“When an adult tooth is coming in, it comes in under the baby tooth it is replacing,” explains Cipes. But it’s normal for some adult teeth to come in from behind the baby teeth as well. If baby teeth are still around when the adult teeth start to emerge, check in with your dentist to make sure everything is growing properly.
Published September 2017