When your baby goes from gummy grins to toothy smiles, they’ve reached a significant babyhood milestone. Those newly erupting baby teeth serve an essential role in the development of your baby’s teeth and mouth.
Why are baby teeth important?
Baby teeth, also called primary teeth, get your baby’s mouth ready for their permanent teeth. Although baby teeth are great for sweet smiles and cuteness, they have other functions.
- They help with proper chewing and eating. During the chewing process, food is broken down into small pieces that are easily digested.
- They are necessary for your child to learn to speak. When primary teeth are healthy, well-spaced and aligned, your child is better able to form words and speak clearly.
- They serve as placeholders for permanent teeth and help guide them onto place as they start coming in.
We all hope for good health and a lifetime of smiles for our children. Here are some important facts and tips to keep those baby teeth healthy and prevent harmful dental problems for years to come.
Baby Tooth Eruption Timeline
Teething, also known as primary tooth eruption, is when your baby’s first set of teeth breaks through their gums. Teething usually begins around six months of age. However, it’s entirely normal for teething to start at any time between three to 12 months of age.
Tooth eruption timeline
Baby teeth start forming before babies are born. Tooth buds begin growing during the second trimester. Once babies are born, the roots grow and the teeth are pushed up until they break through the gums.
By the time they are three years old, most babies will have all their baby teeth, 20 in all.
Signs of Teething
Every baby experiences teething differently. Some babies have no symptoms, while others seem to go through a lot of pain. Some common teething symptoms your baby might experience include:
- Swelling or redness of gums
- Ear rubbing
- Facial rash
- Mild temperature
- Sucking or biting
If your little one is having a difficult time during teething, there are some things you can try to help ease their discomfort and pain. Give them something to chew on, like a firm rubber teething ring or a cold washcloth that you’ve chilled in the refrigerator (not the freezer). Chewing helps by relieving the pressure of the new teeth pressing up. You can gently rub your baby’s gums with a clean finger or a wet gauze pad. If your child is eating solids, offer chilled foods, like applesauce, pureed peaches or yogurt. Make sure to give lots of extra snuggles and kisses to help reassure and distract them.
If your baby exhibits these symptoms and they don’t go away or seem to worsen, please contact your pediatrician. There might be something else going on.
Brushing Baby Teeth
Before your baby’s first tooth becomes visible in the mouth, wipe their mouth every day with a soft, moist washcloth. As soon as teeth become visible in the mouth, brush them twice a day with a small soft bristle toothbrush that contains a rice-sized smear of fluoride-containing toothpaste. Encourage your baby to spit out the toothpaste.
Baby Teeth and Cavities
Just like permanent teeth, baby teeth can get cavities if not properly taken care of. Baby Bottle Tooth Decay is a term used to describe the decay that develops when baby teeth have frequent and prolonged contact with too much sugar. It can occur when babies are put to bed with a bottle, when a bottle is used as a pacifier, or if a baby uses a bottle or sippy cup for extended periods of time. Bacteria already in the mouth feed on the sugar, multiply and produce acid as a waste product. This acid attacks the teeth and tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay. To prevent baby bottle tooth decay, only put water, milk, or formula in baby bottles and take the bottle away while your child is sleeping.
Other ways to prevent cavities are:
- Avoid giving your baby sticky foods and unhealthy snacks like candy, soda or juice in between meals. Instead, give your baby healthy snacks like cheese, yogurt or fruit.
- Limit the amount of juice you give your child. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 6 ounces per day for young children and only give juice at mealtimes. Babies under six months should not drink juice at all.
- If your child uses a pacifier, provide one that is clean, and don’t dip it in sugar or honey.
- If you see white spots developing on your baby’s teeth, then make an appointment with your pediatric dentist right away. A white spot is often the first sign of a dental cavity.
First Dentist Visit
The Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children make their first visit to the dentist before their first birthday or six months after they get their first tooth.
Prevention and education are key to a lifetime of healthy smiles. You can make a “Baby and Me” appointment for your child under two years of age. We check your baby’s teeth for decay and make sure they are erupting properly. We also discuss proper oral care, diet and habits that can influence your child’s dental health and well being.
This first visit is an excellent opportunity to introduce your child to dentistry in a fun and positive way.