Primary Pearly Whites
Throughout the human lifespan, our bodies go through several changes. And most of us have embarrassing pictures as evidence of a particularly awkward stage — especially those toothless grins seen during our childhood years.
Also known as baby teeth, primary teeth are our first set of teeth that pave the way for our permanent teeth, and they’re an important part of a child’s development.
Dental health is a major aspect of your infant’s or toddler’s well-being. Parents often have questions when it comes to their child’s primary teeth. Here’s what to expect when you’re expecting — a baby tooth!
There are so many things for new parents to look forward to: a lack of sleep, changing diapers and lots of crying. Once you think you’ve got it all under control, your child will most likely start teething. The truth is, our teeth are forming before we’re even born, but they don’t start to erupt until about the age of 6 months.
Although every child is different, there is a basic pattern that primary teeth follow as they emerge. You’ll probably see one or two teeth erupt from the lower jaw at first, and before you know it your baby will have a full set of baby teeth! The central incisors, the teeth located in the front of the mouth, will start to come in at 6 or 7 months, with the lateral incisors on either side following a month later. The first molars should arrive after your child’s first birthday, followed by the pointy cuspids and second molars. When all is said and done, most children will have 20 teeth, with 10 in each jaw, by the time they are two and a half years old.
As one might expect, a tooth breaking through the gums isn’t very fun, and the resulting discomfort is an unfortunate aspect of the teething experience. Infants and toddlers may experience sporadic drooling, irritability or even disruptions in eating or sleeping patterns during this period. Luckily, there are some things you can do to ease the pain — the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends letting babies bite down on a teething ring, cool spoon or cold, wet washcloth to ease sore gums. Rubbing the baby’s gums with a finger may also do the trick — as long as it’s clean!
Primary Tooth Loss
Primary tooth loss is a major milestone of childhood! Around the age of 6, your child will start to experience the loss of their primary teeth — and a visit from the tooth fairy! As the permanent teeth form under the gum line, they resorb the roots of the baby teeth. Eventually each primary tooth becomes unstable, only to be pushed out by the permanent tooth beneath it. The order in which primary teeth are lost is similar to the way they came in.
It’s natural for your child to want to play with a loose tooth, but it’s best you don’t pull it out on your own. A tooth that is lost too early can lead to excessive bleeding gums, pain and infection. Early removal of the primary teeth may even cause the surrounding teeth to shift, causing the awaiting 32 permanent teeth to grow in crooked — which could lead to a hefty orthodontist bill down the line. So don’t pull a loose baby tooth out — but be sure to take lots of pictures! That toothless grin will provide plenty of blackmail opportunities when your kid grows up.
There’s a lot to be said for the importance of baby teeth! Just because primary teeth will eventually fall out doesn’t mean they’re not needed. They are necessary for chewing and developing speech patterns. So if your child has cavities in their primary teeth, you should have them restored rather than waiting for the teeth to fall out. Keep in mind that an infection in the primary teeth can also damage the permanent teeth beneath them. Plus, no one wants to have to worry about providing their children with toothache remedies!
Dental care starts from the time your child is born. Start by taking a wet washcloth and wipe your baby’s gums to clear away residue after feedings. Once primary teeth come in, use a soft toothbrush and water to brush away debris, and avoid putting your baby to bed with a bottle to prevent baby bottle tooth decay. Your dentist can tell you when it’s safe to start using fluoride toothpaste, but a pea-sized amount is usually recommended after the age of 2. Children should learn to spit out the toothpaste and rinse with water to prevent dental fluorosis. You can start teaching your child how to brush on their own after the age of 3. How to floss properly should be introduced once teeth are large enough to touch each other. Regardless of when they start brushing their own teeth, children should be supervised until they are responsible enough to do it properly on their own.
Dentists recommend that children visit the dental office by their first birthday, and have regular dental visits twice a year — just like anyone else! Your dentist or pediatric dentist will not only check for signs of tooth decay, but can also look for any pre-existing conditions that may cause future dental problems. A dental visit is a great time for your dentist or dental hygienist to show you the proper way to care for you child’s teeth. And thanks to modern dental practices combined with a gentle, caring dental staff, your child has no reason for dental anxiety. Remember, excellent baby teeth care will turn children’s toothless grins into gorgeous smiles, so get them started early for a lifetime of dental health!