Normally a child’s first tooth erupts between ages of 6 to 12 months. The child’s gums are sore, tender and sometimes the child will be irritable until the age of 3. Rubbing their sore gums gently with a clean finger, the back of a cold spoon, or a cold, wet cloth helps soothe the child’s gums. Teething rings work well, but avoid teething biscuits because 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 a condition known as baby bottle decay. Examine the teeth, especially on the inside or the tongue side, every two weeks or so for dull spots which are whiter than the tooth surface, or dull lines. A bottle that contains anything other than water, and which is left in an infant’s mouth while sleeping, can cause decay. This happens because sugar in the liquid mixes with bacteria in the mouth, in dental plaque, forming acids that attack the tooth enamel. Whenever a child drinks liquids containing sugar, acids will attack the teeth for about 20 minutes. When the child is awake, saliva carries away the liquid. But during sleep, the saliva flow significantly decreases and liquids pool around the child’s teeth for long periods, covering the teeth in acids.
Infant’s New Teeth
The primary, or "baby" teeth play a crucial role in dental development. Without them, a child cannot properly chew food and even has difficulty speaking clearly. Primary teeth are vital to development of the jaw and for guiding the permanent (secondary) teeth into the proper place when they replace the primary teeth at around age 6.
Since primary teeth help to guide the permanent teeth into place, children with missing primary teeth or who prematurely lose their primary teeth may require a space maintainer, a device used to hold the natural space open. Without a space maintainer, the teeth can tilt toward the empty space and cause the permanent teeth to come in crooked. Missing teeth should always be mentioned to your family dentist. The way your child cares for his or her primary teeth plays a crucial role in how he or she treats the permanent teeth. Children and adults are equally susceptible to plaque and gum problems – hence, the need for regular care and dental checkups.
A Child’s First Dental Visit
Your child’s first dental visit should be scheduled around his or her first birthday. The most important aspect of the visit is the child getting to know and becoming comfortable with a doctor and his staff. A pleasant, comfortable first visit builds trust and helps put the child at ease during future dental visits. We allow the child to sit in a parent’s lap in the exam room. And we encourage children to discuss any fears or anxiety they feel.
Why Primary Teeth Are Important
A child’s primary teeth are important for several reasons. First, good teeth allow a child to eat easily and maintain good nutrition. Healthy teeth allow for the child to develop clear pronunciation and speech habits. The self-image that healthy teeth give a child is significant. Primary teeth also guide the later eruption of the permanent teeth.
Good Diet and Healthy Teeth
The teeth, bones and soft tissue of the mouth need a healthy, well-balanced diet to stay healthy. A variety of foods from the five food groups helps to minimize or avoid cavities and other dental problems. Most processed snacks that children eat cause cavities, so children should only eat healthy foods like vegetables, low-fat yogurt and cheeses, which promote strong teeth.
Infant Tooth Eruption
Your child’s teeth actually start forming even before birth. As early as 4 months of age, the primary or "baby" teeth start pushing through the gums. The lower central incisors come first, then the upper central incisors. The rest of the 20 primary teeth typically come in by age 3, but the order varies.
Permanent teeth begin coming in by around age 6, starting with the first molars and lower central incisors. This process continues until around age 21. Adults have 28 secondary (permanent) teeth, 32 including the wisdom teeth.
Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Tooth decay in infants can be minimized or completely prevented by not allowing sleeping infants to breast-feed or bottle-feed. Infants that need a bottle to comfortably fall asleep should be given a water-filled bottle or a pacifier. Our office is dedicated to fighting baby bottle tooth decay. Let us know if you notice any signs of decay or anything unusual in your child’s mouth.