Primary or baby teeth begin to develop when an unborn baby is five weeks old. They do not appear in the mouth until the lower central incisors erupt at about six months of age.
Normal ages of eruption vary greatly from child to child. For instance, lower central incisors may appear as early as two months of age or as late as twelve months. Occasionally, a lower incisor may be in place at birth. The order in which teeth erupt does not vary. Primary teeth are of major importance to the child’s appearance, chewing ability, and eventual health of the permanent teeth.
Every child should have twenty primary teeth, four each of the five kinds. All twenty of the primary teeth are usually in place by the time the child is three years old. The primary teeth generally appear as indicated in the diagram at left.
Primary teeth play an important role in your child’s speech and ability to chew. They guide permanent teeth to erupt into the right position.
In a first visit, the goal is to establish trust in your dental team. This is not just time to treat a specific dental problem. Rather, your dentist and other staff should be open to questions. They should make an effort to put you and your child at ease. Your dentist will likely:
Generally, check-ups are recommended every six months to prevent, find and treat cavities and other problems. As your child grows and more teeth appear, the dentist will look at the mouth more closely and may take x-rays.
Be sure to schedule appointments at a time of day when your child will be alert. Let office staff know about any special needs in advance, so they will be ready for your visit.
Your own dentist may not routinely treat kids. In this case your child may be referred to a pediatric dentist, who only treats infants and children.
Ask questions about your baby’s oral health. Your dentist is a great source of information. Talk about what you can do at home to prevent dental problems and give your child the best oral health possible.
Expect your baby’s first teeth, the lower front teeth, to appear in the mouth at around seven months of age. All baby teeth should be in the mouth by the time your child is three years old.
For most babies, teething is painless. Some babies will be irritable. They may have a mild fever, as their gums can be tender and swollen.
Your baby will drool a lot during the teething process and will want to chew on things. Give your baby cold, clean washcloths or frozen teething rings. Massaging gums may provide some relief. Acetaminophen can be used for pain control, but talk to your baby’s doctor first.
Many parents have questions about thumb sucking and soother use. While babies find comfort in sucking their thumbs or soothers, be aware that prolonged sucking of either may distort teeth and jaws.
Only use soothers when you must. This makes it easier to stop the habit. Never coat a soother with sweeteners, even honey. The habit becomes even harder to break, and your baby is at very high risk of decay in those erupting teeth.
You will need your child’s co-operation in breaking the thumb sucking habit. Usually children want to stop once they begin school.
If your child is bottle fed, introduce drinking from a cup at 6 months of age. Babies should stop using bottles by the time they are 18 months old.
In recent years, the number of cavities found in young children has increased dramatically. You can prevent your child from having teeth that need fillings or that must be pulled.
Most importantly, never allow your baby to go to bed with a bottle. Prolonged exposure to the sugars in milk and juice put your baby’s teeth at risk for widespread decay and cavities. Remember to clean your baby’s teeth after each feeding.
Limit snacking. If your child snacks constantly, the teeth are repeatedly exposed to sugar. Bacteria can easily grow and cause decay.
The following guidelines will help you give your child the best possible oral health.
Remember—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Taking small steps early can prevent bigger problems later. Early visits to the dentist can safeguard your child’s bright smile well into the future.