The Cycle of Baby Teeth
By the time a child is born, there are already around 20 fully-formed teeth hidden just beneath their gums. While these teeth are still about 6 months away from making their grand appearance, oral care is still required to ensure that the teeth, once emerged, enjoy a long, healthy life.
Healthy baby teeth are crucial for setting the stage for the arrival of adult teeth. To maintain your child’s oral health, it’s helpful to know what to expect from the cycle of baby teeth, from pre-eruption to ejection.
Teeth begin to form at around 6 weeks after conception. By the time a baby is born, around 20 front teeth are already present beneath their tender gums. These front teeth give the gums support for drawing milk.
While the teeth aren’t exposed at this age, it’s still important to maintain good oral health so that once the teeth do begin to emerge, the risk of plaque buildup or infection is reduced.
The following are a few good pre-tooth-eruption oral hygiene practices:
- Gently clean the gums with a damp cloth. This helps clear away bacteria and buildup from milk or formula.
- Don’t put the baby to bed with a bottle. Allowing milk or formula to stay on the gums creates a friendly environment for harmful bacteria.
- Gently massage gum tissue to encourage healthy gum and tooth development.
Baby teeth begin to emerge (or erupt) at around 4 months. These teeth are the front teeth, which begin development in the womb.
At around 6 months, it’s time to schedule your child’s first dental appointment. While this may seem a little early to begin seeing a dentist, assessing tooth, gum, and jaw health early will allow your child’s doctor to detect early warning signs of possible dental health issues. Anticipating such issues from the outset will help set your child on the right path for a lifetime of dental health.
By the age of 3, all 20 of a child’s baby teeth will likely have emerged. By this time, regularly scheduled dental cleanings are essential for monitoring your child’s rapidly developing teeth and to ensure issues such as cavities or poorly aligned teeth don’t develop.
Consistent daily oral hygiene practices are also highly important at this age. While some parents assume that the health of baby teeth isn’t that consequential to overall tooth development, issues such as cavities, gum disease, and lowered immune response during childhood can carry over into adulthood, leading to lasting dental health impacts.
For these reasons, twice-daily brushing, and flossing are essential. Instilling these practices in your child from an early age helps form long-lasting habits that will provide countless dental health benefits to your child well into adulthood.
Permanent teeth start to come in at around ages 5 to 6, once a child’s jaw is strong enough to support them.
Permanent teeth begin to push their way into the mouth, causing the roots of baby teeth to break so that the teeth fall out. Once the baby teeth are ejected, permanent teeth begin to emerge as soon as a week after.
Once the permanent teeth are established, your child’s dental health journey has only just begun. But, as long as you and your child’s doctor have taken the proper steps to ensure their teeth are well maintained, don’t count on many big surprises. With proper diligence and consistent care, your child should enjoy a lifetime of healthy teeth.