A Baby’s First Tooth
A pediatric dentist is uniquely qualified to care for the process of the teeth beginning to appear in the mouth – a process known as eruption. In addition to the normal 4 years of dental school, our specialized pediatric dentists complete an additional 2 to 3 years of training. This is to prepare them for the special needs of a baby and young person’s growing mouth and jaw. Part of this additional training focuses on understanding eruption.
Around 6 months of age the first two front teeth appear, much to the delight of the parents. But these are not being created at this time. They are in fact already shaped and growing but reveal themselves over a period of years. And these baby teeth are very important.
They help to shape not only the jaw and chewing motions, but the facial structure as well. They also help the child to speak and prepare the pathway for the permanent replacements to follow.
How Many Will Appear?
Children will have 20 primaries which will erupt between 6 months and 3 years of age. Around age 6 permanent replacements will begin their appearance beginning with the rear molars and the lower central incisors in the front of the mouth. The total eruption period will last until around age 21. This can explain why a pediatric dentist can be needed well into the teenage years.
Adults will have 28 permanent teeth. 32 including what are commonly referred to as the wisdom teeth, or third molars.
This chart identifies the places and names of the primaries and states the estimated approximate ages when you can expect to see each tooth erupt and become visible. It also shows when to expect each tooth to shed, or be lost. Remember these may be temporary but they need to be cared for just as their permanent replacements should be. This will affect how your child speaks and how easily he or she will be able to chew food.
Proper care early on also teaches them to care for their own oral health.
Just as many families mark the height of their children as they grow by making marks on a doorframe or back of a door, many of our patients tell us they enjoy keeping track of each little pearly white as it appears. Whereas height can be marked with a pencil line or even permanently etched into the door frame by an etching tool, we like these charts we have found which only require a pen or pencil to record the dates.
We like this additional blue chart which shows the approximate ages in months when the first eruptions begin. These can be used in a couple ways. First they help you as a parent understand and even anticipate which will appear first and when they will first appear. But also, we have been told some parents use them later on with their child to help them understand when their teeth first appeared as a way to help them understand that they will later experience a loose tooth that will fall out and to understand that process as normal.
We have found that children are very inquisitive and also greatly enjoy learning. Others may need the reassurance that what they are experiencing is normal.
You can save these charts to a photo editing software like Photoshop or MS Paint and add your son or daughter’s name to them or simply print them out as is and write the name at the top. Other charts are found many places online as well.
Before the first eruption even begins, it is a good practice to wipe the gums clean with a little water after each feeding using soft gauze or washcloth. As soon as the first eruptions begin, use some water and soft toothbrush on the initial teeth. Children then approaching age two should be taught good oral care. Continue to be part of the practice of brushing with them, teaching them to use a small amount of toothpaste. They also often need to be reminded to spit out the toothpaste after brushing and not swallow it.
This brushing and teaching can often become a good time of bonding between parent and child. There are many videos showing good techniques for this.
Primary Teeth Decay
Another very important consideration for parents is to keep the condition of the primaries in mind in regards to feeding and cleaning. Early Childhood Caries, which is sometimes called baby bottle decay or nursing mouth syndrome, is the decay process in infants and toddlers. This usually occurs due to excessive exposure to sweet or sugary liquids for long periods of time. This condition can actually destroy the teeth which can create problems for the permanent replacements later on as well.
Principle ways to avoid and prevent this from occurring is to clean the teeth after sustained nursing or liquid intake. As well, using a sippy cup in place of a pacifier for those that need a comforter in their mouths can be a very damaging practice. Never allow your baby to continue to suck on a sippy cup when they are finished drinking. Additionally, do not allow them to fall asleep sucking on the sippy cup or dip their pacifier in a sugary drink or fruit juice.
Consult your pediatrician or pediatric dentist for recommendations regarding type of pacifier and if one is needed for your child. The avoidance of the above detrimental habits contributes substantially in the prevention of baby bottle decay. For all our Pediatric Dentistry services, click here.
The pearly whites first appearing can often cause teething pain for your child but it is also a time to rejoice as a parent.