Normally, the first baby (primary) tooth erupts between ages 5 to 12 months, and the last one appears typically between ages 2 1/2-3. As the baby teeth erupt the gums may appear red or purple and sore, and your child may be irritable. Rubbing sore gums gently with a clean finger, the back of a cold spoon, or a cold wet cloth helps soothe the gums. Teething rings work well but avoid teething biscuits, as they contain sugar that is not good for baby teeth.

While your baby is teething, it is important to monitor the teeth for signs of "baby bottle decay". Examine the teeth every week for dull areas or white or brown spots. A bottle containing anything other than water that is left in an infant’s mouth while sleeping can cause serious decay, especially milk, soda or fruit juices. This happens because sugar or acid in the liquid mixes with bacteria to quickly create dental plaque that attacks the tooth enamel. Each time a child drinks liquids containing sugar acids attack the teeth for about 20 minutes. When awake, saliva carries away much of the liquid. During sleep, the saliva flow significantly decreases and the acid-forming liquid pools around the child’s teeth for long periods causing serious decay.

Your Infant’s New Teeth

The baby (primary) teeth play a crucial role in dental development. Without them, a child cannot chew food properly and can have difficulty speaking clearly. Primary teeth are vital to development of the jaw and for guiding the permanent (secondary) teeth into place when they erupt at around age 5 1/2-6.

Infants with missing primary teeth or who prematurely lose primary teeth sometimes require a space maintainer, a device used to hold the natural tooth space open. Without a space maintainer the teeth can tilt toward the empty space and cause permanent teeth to come in crooked.

The way your child cares for their primary teeth plays a critical role in how they treat the permanent teeth. Because children and adults are equally susceptible to plaque and gum problems, the need for regular home care and dental check-ups is crucial.

Your Child’s First Dental Visit

A child’s first dental visit should be scheduled around age 2 1/2-3. By this time the last baby teeth are erupting into position. The most important part of the first visit is becoming comfortable with the doctor and his staff and getting used to the office sights, smells and sounds. Our video game room is a great area to spend a little time after their appointment, as a pleasant, comfortable first visit builds trust and helps put the child at ease during future visits.

We have found this appointment unfolds best if, just prior to the child’s first visit, a parent brings the child with them to the parent’s professional cleaning and exam. The child meets the office team and gets used to the office environment (smells, sounds, uniforms, etc.) before their first official visit. They can pick a toy out of the treasure chest and play in the game room!

When their big day arrives, we have found morning visits right after breakfast are the best for the little ones. Bellies are full and they are not in need of a nap. Though more convenient for parents, the end of the day after work is a poor choice for a first visit.

Why Primary Teeth Are  So Important

Primary teeth are important for several reasons. Foremost, good teeth allow a child to eat and maintain good nutrition. Healthy teeth allow for clear pronunciation, chewing and speech habits. The self-image that healthy teeth give a child is immeasurable. Primary teeth also guide proper eruption of the permanent teeth.

Good Diet and Healthy Teeth

The teeth, bones and soft tissue of the mouth require a healthy, well-balanced diet. A variety of foods from the five food groups will help to minimize cavities and other dental problems. Most carbohydrate-rich and sweet snacks, sodas and juices that children eat or drink cause cavities, so children should primarily receive healthy foods like vegetables and low-fat yogurt and cheese.

Baby Tooth Eruption

A child’s teeth actually start forming before birth. As early as 4 months of age, the  baby (primary) teeth push through the gums. The lower central incisors are first, then the upper central incisors. The remainder of the 20 primary teeth typically erupt by age 3. The age that teeth erupt is not nearly as important as the sequence that they erupt.

Permanent teeth begin eruption around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until around age 12-13 (not including the wisdom teeth).  Including the four third molars (wisdom teeth), adults have 32 permanent (secondary) teeth.

Preventing Baby-Bottle Tooth Decay

Baby-bottle tooth decay is a serious decay pattern that can lead to tremendous damage to the baby teeth. It can be prevented by not breast-feeding or giving a bottle WITH ANYTHING OTHER THAN WATER while the infant is sleeping. Infants that need a bottle to comfortably fall asleep should be given only a plain water-filled bottle or a pacifier, NEVER MILK, JUICE, SODA, ETC.

Our office is dedicated to fighting baby bottle tooth decay. Let us know if you notice any signs of decay or anything else unusual in your infant's mouth.