A baby’s first tooth is a big deal. In fact, a baby’s second and even third tooth eruptions are huge milestones not only for the tots themselves but for parents as well. These little teeth will serve essential roles throughout the growth and development of your child’s mouth. This guide will cover the basics of what you need to know about baby teeth, including when to expect their eruption, how to care for them, why they are important, and more.

Why are Baby Teeth Important?

Baby teeth, technically called primary teeth, are the first set of teeth that a child receives. Primary teeth are not only adorable and make for amazing pictures of lovely toddler smiles, they also serve several functions inside the child’s mouth. The following are a few reasons why baby teeth are important:

  • Baby teeth are needed to help a child learn how to speak. A child is better able to form their words and speak clearly when they have a healthy set of primary teeth that are well-spaced and aligned.
  • Primary teeth are essentially placeholders for permanent teeth. Baby teeth are there to help guide primary teeth along the path as they emerge through the gums.
  • Baby teeth help with proper eating. These teeth are important because they aid in the chewing process to ensure that food is broken down into small pieces that are easily digestible, which is particularly important when the child is very young.

Keep reading to learn how you can keep those baby teeth healthy and prevent potential dental problems in the future. First, we will start with the basics of primary teeth and what to expect in terms of eruption ages.

What is Teething or Tooth Eruption?

Teething is the common word for what is known as “primary tooth eruption”. Essentially, teething is when a child’s first set of teeth break through their gums. For most babies, teething begins around six months of age, but it is considered normal for a child to get their first tooth any time between three months and one year of age. Take a look at the chart to learn about the average ages for the eruption and shedding of baby teeth.

Temporary Tooth Eruption TimelineChart of primary tooth eruption with ages for shedding and incoming

Teeth start to form inside of a baby’s mouth while they are still in utero. During the second trimester of pregnancy, tooth buds start to grow. After babies are born, the roots underneath of the teeth begin to grow – which pushes the teeth up through the gums. While all children are different, in general, most babies will have all 20 of their primary teeth by the age of three years old.

What are the Signs of Teething?

Some children experience difficulty during teething and will display signs of discomfort, while others may go through it without any symptoms at all. If your child does experience symptoms during teething, the most common ones include:

  • Suckling or biting
  • Ear rubbing
  • Irritability
  • Drooling
  • Facial rash
  • Mild temperature
  • Swelling or redness of gums

How Can You Ease a Teething Child’s Discomfort?

When a child experiences a difficult time during teething there are some options you can consider that could potentially help them with pain and discomfort.

  • Offer the child something to chew on. You can use a cold washcloth or a firm rubber teething ring – either one can be first chilled in the refrigerator but not in the freezer. Chewing is an effective coping mechanism as it helps relieve the pressure on the new teeth emerging.
  • Gently rub your baby’s gums. You can use a wet gauze pad, a silicone baby brush made for massaging gums, or simply a clean finger to rub gently on the gums of your baby.
  • Offer chilled foods. If your baby is eating solid foods, you can offer frozen fruits as snacks such as applesauce, peaches, or yogurt. You can find small pacifier-type devices that have a net on one end for holding the frozen foods that can make this easier for babies and young toddlers.
  • Give extra cuddles and affection. Sometimes the most soothing thing you can do for a teething baby is to hold on to them and give them plenty of extra snuggles and kisses. This can help distract them from the pain or discomfort.

*Be careful not to mistake a different problem going on with your child for teething. If your baby seems to experience these symptoms and they do not go away or if they seem to get worse, be sure to get in touch with your family pediatrician. 

Brushing Primary/Baby Teeth

You should begin washing and cleaning out your baby’s mouth and gums long before their first tooth is even visible in their mouth. Every day, you can use a soft and moist washcloth to wipe out their mouth. Once the teeth become visible, they should be brushed twice daily with a small soft bristle toothbrush and only a rice-size amount of baby toothpaste (preferably fluoride-free as it is easy for babies to swallow some by accident). Encourage your child to spit out the toothpaste and rinse out their mouth when you’re done.

Concerns About Baby Teeth and Cavities

Baby teeth can get cavities just as permanent teeth can suffer from tooth decay when not properly cared for. In fact, babies whose teeth have prolonged or frequent contact with too much sugar can develop what is called “Baby Bottle Tooth Decay”. The name comes from the fact that the condition is usually the result of a child either being put to bed with a sippy cup or bottle or carrying one around for long periods that is filled with milk or juice. The decay is a result of the fact that natural bacteria found inside the mouth will feed on the sugar and produce an acidic byproduct, which attacks the tooth enamel. Read our previous blog post about baby teeth decay for more information on this subject.

Ways to Prevent Cavities in Primary Teeth:

  • Only give your child water in bottles or sippy cups at bedtime.
  • Limit the amount of juice given to your child to no more than six ounces per day.
  • Juice should only be given at mealtimes according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  • Babies under six months old should not have juice.
  • Avoid giving your child or baby unhealthy drinks or snacks, such as soda or sticky/sugary foods. Healthy alternatives include yogurt, fruit, or cheese.
  • Try not to give your child a pacifier. If your baby does use a pacifier, be sure that it is kept clean.

Concerned About Your Child’s Primary Teeth?

Have you seen any spots developing on your baby’s teeth? If so, then you should call us to get an appointment at one of our four pediatric dentist locations in Bountiful, Taylorsville, Herriman, and Stansbury Park, Utah. Call us today at 801-948-8880.