Taking the Mystery Out of Your Child’s Tooth Development
New parents have a lot to keep track of when it comes to their baby’s health, and their teeth are no exception. Many find themselves wondering if their child is developing on schedule and, if not, what they should do about it.
When do babies get teeth, and how do you deal with baby teeth coming in? When should your child have their first dentist appointment, and what can you expect when your child starts wiggling their first loose tooth?
To answer these questions and more, we’ve compiled a straightforward baby teeth timeline for your reference. Read on to find out what to look forward to as your child’s mouth develops.
When your baby is born, their cute gummy smile won’t have any visible teeth. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean the teeth aren’t present, though.
Our teeth begin to grow and develop while we’re still in the womb, starting around the five-week mark of pregnancy. At this point, our teeth are nothing more than buds of cells inside what will become the jawbone. These tooth buds continue to grow throughout pregnancy, and by the time your child is born, they’ll have their full set of baby teeth (also called primary or deciduous teeth) hidden in the jawbone beneath their gums.
Even though you can’t see any teeth, this is the best time to introduce your child to a toothbrushing routine. Use a soft, damp cloth to gently clean their gums.
6 Months – 1 Year
When your child reaches 6 months old, their first teeth, known as incisors, will start to break through the gums. Incisors are the small, sharp top and bottom teeth in the front of the mouth. They’re useful for biting but don’t help when chewing tough foods.
The first teeth tend to erupt in this order:
- 6–10 months: lower central incisors
- 8–12 months: upper central incisors
- 9–13 months: upper lateral incisors
- 10–16 months: lower lateral incisors
If you notice your child starting to get irritable and chewing on everything in sight, it’s probably because they’re teething. Cold teething toys and warm baths can help ease discomfort. You are welcome to call our practice for more advice on how to ease their discomfort and deal with teething in general.
Teething often starts around six months and lasts until 2 to 3 years of age. It’s normal for children to get a slightly elevated temperature and be somewhat upset, but if they develop an actual fever or are inconsolable, it’s best to see your pediatrician.
By the time your baby is 18 months old, they’ll likely have eight visible teeth. This means that brushing with a soft infant toothbrush or rubber finger brush and clean water should be part of your morning and evening routines.
The eruption of the first baby tooth is also your signal that it’s time to schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentist. Even baby teeth can get cavities, so it’s important to stay on top of your child’s dental health from the start.
Next up on the baby teeth schedule are the first molars and canine teeth. Once these come in, your child will be able to chew better and can start trying more solid foods. Here are the teeth you can expect to see by age 2:
- 13–19 months: upper first molars
- 14–18 months: lower first molars
- 16–22 months: upper canines (cuspids)
- 17–23 months: lower canines (cuspids)
At around 18 months, once you can teach your child how to spit while brushing their teeth, it’s time to introduce a kid-friendly toothpaste. You can use one with fluoride if you use a very small amount, no larger than a grain of rice, per ADA recommendations.
The toddler and preschool years are when your child’s final baby teeth, the back molars, will poke through. These include the following:
- 23–31 months: lower second molars
- 25–33 months: upper second molars
Between ages 2 and 3, begin flossing between any of your child’s teeth that touch each other and teaching them how to brush their own teeth. Making a game out of tooth brushing can encourage your child to participate. Hold off on switching to an adult toothpaste until they’re 5 or 6 years old.
5–7 Years and Losing Their First Baby Teeth
Once your kiddo reaches their 5th or 6th birthday, many of their permanent teeth will be almost done growing and will be ready to make an appearance. For them to come in, though, they’ll need a vacant spot. As such, it’s around this age that your child will start getting their first wiggly tooth.
Baby teeth often fall out in approximately the same order that they came in, leaving many kids with that iconic front-tooth gap for a few months. If your child doesn’t lose their baby teeth in order, though, don’t panic. There are a lot of reasons for primary teeth to fall out before or after they’re “supposed” to.
If your child’s permanent teeth develop faster than average, they might also start losing teeth ahead of schedule. This is most often the case for children whose primary teeth erupted early.
On the other end of the spectrum, if your child’s teeth don’t fall out on schedule, feel free to check with your dentist about their development. Most kids lose their first tooth between ages 4 and 7, but there’s always the possibility that one or two of their permanent teeth never developed and aren’t pushing the baby teeth out. This problem is fairly common and can usually be fixed with braces later on.
Every child’s baby teeth timeline is unique.
Use this baby teeth timeline as a reference guideline, not a set of hard and fast rules. Each child’s mouth is unique and they may not follow this schedule exactly. Now that you understand the average progression of tooth development, though, we hope you feel empowered to make good decisions about your child’s dental health.
Is your child ready for their first dental visit or do you have questions about their teeth? Contact us online or give us a call to request an appointment today. The pediatric dental team at Must Love Kids looks forward to helping your kiddo take great care of their teeth through all the stages of growth.