Your child’s primary (baby) teeth are completely formed at birth. Primary teeth form at 6-8 weeks gestation, just under the gums. The process of eruption (teeth moving up and breaking through the gums) is often referred to as teething. On average, teething usually begins around 6 months of age. Symptoms that occur during teething may include excessive drooling, low grade fever, diarrhea, and fussiness from the discomfort.
HERE ARE SOME TIPS TO HELP DEAL WITH THE DISCOMFORT AND PAIN ASSOCIATED WITH TEETHING:
- Allow baby to chew on teething rings.
- Give infants Tylenol as needed to alleviate discomfort and inflammation.
- Using numbing gel on baby’s gums is NOT recommended as it ends up numbing the throat and is not generally very effective.
The first teeth to erupt are the two bottom front teeth (central incisors) at around 6-8 months. After these appear, the two top front teeth (upper central incisors) will erupt around 8-12 months. The next to appear are usually the upper cutting teeth (lateral incisors) at around 9-13 months, these are the teeth directly adjacent to the upper front teeth on either side. Following these will be the matching pair on the bottom (lower incisors). The top and bottom first molars start to appear and erupt around age 1. Teeth like to erupt in pairs so our teeth stay symmetrical and all line up nicely in the mouth. The complete set of 20 primary teeth will be fully erupted by age 3.
Here you can see a graph of this process, courtesy of the American Dental Association.
Caring for baby’s primary teeth is a fairly simple process. Once teeth have started to erupt from the mouth, they should be softly wiped out after each feeding, including after nursing or formula. A clean piece of gauze or a cloth may be used wrapped around your finger to wipe out the mouth. You may also introduce a baby tooth brush with no toothpaste or simply water on it to your baby. They will have fun getting to hold it and experience the feel of the bristles in their mouth. Toothpaste is not started until your child is able and aware enough to spit. Swallowing the fluoride in the toothpaste on a regular basis could be harmful.
TO PROTECT YOUR CHILD’S NEW TEETH, KEEP THESE GUIDELINES IN MIND:
- Limiting juice to a maximum of 4 oz per day
- Avoid all sugary drinks – Milk or water is always a better decision.
- Never put baby to sleep with a bottle as this will prolong exposure of their teeth to harmful sugars.
The American Pediatric Dental Association recommends bringing your child to a dentist by age 1 or within 6 months after the first tooth has erupted. Our next article will discuss why it is important to visit the dentist by age 1 and what to expect at your child’s first visit.