Baby Teeth 101 Blog
When does my baby start to teethe? What can I do to help with my baby’s teething? Are the baby teeth important even though they fall out? Can I leave the baby to fall out by themselves? Should I take the baby teeth out? Why are the adult teeth yellow compared to the baby teeth? Many adults and parents don’t think the baby teeth are important but in fact they play a vital role in helping your child talk, eat, smile and develop their jaw.
In this article Dr Kenneth Chan will provide a comprehensive guide to baby teeth and explain the important factors when it comes to baby teeth.
When does my baby start teething?
Your baby may be a little or very irritated by those baby teeth coming through, but teething doesn’t have to be a horrible experience for you or your child. We will give you as much information as you can so you know what to expect and how to handle the situations that can play out.
So babies usually get their first teeth between 6 and 8 months and they don’t stop teething until they’re about 2.5 -3 years old. See the chart below for the rough timeline of when each of the teeth come through. They usually come out in pairs symmetrically and the lower teeth tend to come out a couple of months earlier than the corresponding upper teeth. NOTE: It’s important to understand that these are just age ranges according to statistical bell curves. Some babies can start teething as early as when they’re 3 months old and some babies don’t get their first teeth until they’re 12 months old. Both the process of teething and the timing of the teething vary greatly from baby to baby - the timing of a baby’s teething is not indicative of their developmental milestones.
How many teeth do baby have?
Baby teeth (primary teeth) In total there are 20 baby teeth that grow out, 10 on the top and 10 on the bottom. If we divided the mouth into 4 corners, top right, top left, bottom left, bottom right, in each corner there are the the Central incisors, Lateral incisors, Canines, First Primary Molars, Second Primary Molars
For adults there are 32 complete adult teeth (secondary teeth), 16 on the top and 16 on the bottom. In each corner of the mouth, there are the Central Incisors, Lateral incisors, Canines, First Premolars (they replace the First Primary molars), Second Premolars (they replace the Second Primary Molars), First Adult Molars, Second Adult Molars, Third Adult Molars (also called the wisdom teeth)
Both the process of teething and the timing of the teething vary greatly from baby to baby - the timing of a baby’s teething is not indicative of their developmental milestones.
The Signs of Teething
Rashes around the mouth: Rashes may form around the mouth because of the irritating feeling from teething can cause your baby wanting to scratch around the mouth or chew on things that irritate their skin.
Drooling: When a baby starts teething, it is quite normal to see more drooling. This is because the saliva helps to cool and soothe the gums and so it can be comforting for your baby.
Irritated and crying: It might be from hunger, it might be from pooping or weeing, it might be from wanting a hug from mummy or daddy. But many parents notice their baby being more irritated than normal when teething begins and even crying. Teething can be painful and uncomfortable for a baby because they’re experiencing these hard white bumps (the baby teeth) push through their gums. Since your baby can’t tell you that its the gums hurting from the teeth pushing out, it can lead to feeling irritated and wanting to cry.
Chewing and biting: Biting on various objects (or even people) is a major sign of teething! Your baby may start chewing and biting on anything they can get their hands on. Babies like biting because it helps to soothe the pain or irritation they they may feel.
Low appetite: Refusing to eat is another common sign of your baby teething. Their gums are sore and irritated, so eating harder foods may not be very pleasant.
Poor sleep: This is another common sign of teething because your baby is irritated and would find it hard to sleep and in some cases be woken from the discomfort of the teething.
What about fevers? Some parents have observed fevers with teething but fevers aren’t common and generally shouldn’t be attributed to teething. Contact your baby’s healthcare provider in these circumstances just to be safe.
What can I do to help with my baby’s teething?
Fingers: Babies love putting their fingers in their mouth during teething. You can offer your fingers while you’re holding them. Gently rubbing over the gums where they’re teething can give them a bit of comfort and soothe the irritation and soreness.
Frozen Fruits: Frozen cucumber slices or bananas
Cruskits: One of the more traditional ways parents in the past would take in helping teething, give your little nipper a small cruskit to ngaw on
Chilled washcloths : Note: Make sure the cloths ARE NOT FROZEN. Place a wet washcloth in the freezer for a couple minutes, so it’s cold but not frozen, and then give it your baby to chew on. It can help soothe the discomfort of teething. Or use the chilled washcloth with your finger and gently massage your baby’s gums over the areas where they’re teething
Teethers and Toys: Teethers or toys that your baby can chew on can be quite helpful for teething. But any toy that your baby chews on should be carefully cleaned before you use it. You can chill the teether or toy in the freezer as well but make sure they ARE NOT FROZEN.
Maintain a Routine: Having trouble sleeping can be a common sign of teething so keeping baby’s sleep schedule, and all their routines, in place will help make them feel comfortable.
Pain Relief: Panadol (generic name: paracetamol) and Neurofen (generic name: ibuprofen) can be used for pain relief, but parents should strictly follow the dosage guidelines according to the recommended dosages
What about teething gels? We recommend holistic, natural approaches wherever possible and so we don’t recommend teething gels like Bonjela or SM33. Some studies indicate that some formulas of Bonjela and SM33 contain aspirin or salicylate which have been linked with Reyes Syndrome.
What about amber beads? There is no science supporting their effectiveness. In an article for the Australian Dental Association, Consultant Pharmacist Geraldine Moses had a concluding remark “None was detected“ when a university colleague of hers researched the pain relief effects of amber beads. When it comes to beads and necklaces, caution should be taken because of the risk and harm from choking.
How important are baby teeth?
Many adults and parents may think that baby teeth are only there to look cute. They think that it can be a waste of time, money and effort to try to keep baby teeth because they are going to fall out anyway. And if they could get away without making their child go through the experience of getting a filling done, they would probably want to take that option.
In some situations, leaving the baby teeth alone to fall out may be a valid option. BUT the truth is that not all baby teeth are of equal importance and it really depends on the age of the child and the circumstance of the baby tooth.
Why are baby teeth important?
Below you will see the ages of teething for both the primary baby teeth and permanent adult teeth. The baby teeth shed or fall out when the permanent are ready to erupt.
Front teeth (incisors): These are there to help give a baby a nice smile, but more importantly having these front teeth helps your child with
Talking: Your child will start to make different sounds with their mouth and teeth as they learn to talk. Have you ever been aware of how you make the “S” “F” or “V” sounds? They all require the front teeth being placed together or placed against your lips to form those sounds properly. Without the front teeth, your child may find it hard to enunciate and pronounce words properly, potentially even affecting their self esteem. ‘
Eating: The front incisor teeth are used primarily for cutting solid foods into smaller pieces so you can chew on it. The introduction of solid foods to your baby when start teething the front incisors allows them to learn to use the front teeth to cut the foods into smaller pieces. Your baby will find it hard to swallow and eat solids if they don’t have incisors to help cut the food up
Back Teeth (Baby Molars): In our clinic, we’ve encountered many parents who think the front teeth are the most important teeth in their child’s mouth because it gives them a nice smile. But from a dentist’s perspective, the baby molars at back of the mouth are the important ones to look after really well and keep. Baby molars are important because of
Eating: Once the incisors cut the food up, the baby molars are used to chew and grind the food up to allow your baby or child to swallow their food. If they don’t have the baby molars to chew with, then they can’t really eat properly and this can then affect their digestion and growth and development
Jaw development: The action of chewing with the baby molar teeth actually play a vital role in jaw development because it stimulates the growth of the jaw bones and muscles as they work and function. This is where it’s important to gradually wean your baby off liquid and soft foods and transition onto firm and more solid foods, so that they can start using their teeth and jaws properly. As the child eats and chews with their molar teeth more and more, their jaws bones and muscles are stimulated to grow and develop to its proper size
Space Maintenance: Linked to jaw development, the baby molars also play a vital role in maintaining space in the jaw for the permanent adult premolar teeth. See the Primary and Permanent Teeth Charts above
When your child turns 6-7, their first permanent adult molars come out at the back of their mouth behind their baby molar teeth
The baby molar teeth will eventually fall out (shed) and be replaced by the permanent adult premolars but this doesn’t happen until your child is about 10-12 years old
The baby molar teeth actually help to keep the first permanent adult molar from coming forward
If your child prematurely loses their baby molar teeth teeth too early, this will allow the first permanent adult molar to push forward into the space that was reserved for the permanent adult premolar teeth creating less space.
Less space for the adult premolar teeth will cause crowding and crooked teeth, and in more serious cases, prevent the adult premolar teeth from being able to come out of the gums because there’s no room. This can often result in
chipped teeth from maligned biting
affected chewing and eating from maligned biting
making it harder for your child to clean their teeth
losing the permanent adult teeth
self esteem issues
Should I take out the baby teeth now?
There are situations when the adult teeth have started growing out from the gums and the baby teeth are still hanging around in the gums
Or your child’s mouth may look like shark teeth because there are now double teeth appearing with both the adult and baby teeth there.
Should you take them to the dentist to take it out?
Questions to ask before you do that
Does it hurt? If it hurts then you may want to take them to the dentist to have it removed to prevent it causing discomfort and affecting their eating and school
Is it wobbly? If its moving more than 2-3mm when you wiggle it with your finger, lip or tongue - then it is likely it will fall out by itself - try giving your child an apple or firm pear to eat
Is there an infection or abscess forming around the tooth? If yes, then take them to the dentist straight away
Is there space for the adult tooth to fit? If there isn’t actually enough space inside the mouth for the adult tooth to fit, then it is quite likely your child’s jaw is too small and underdeveloped. Read our page on Orthodontics for more information on the cause
Wait, are there situations where you can leave the baby teeth alone to fall out?
Note: These are very situational and it is not professional advice. Please consult your dentist for your child’s specific situation
If the baby tooth is VERY wobbly then your dentist may suggest to leave the baby tooth to fall by itself - VERY wobbly means that it can move more than 2-3mm when you touch it with your tongue, lip or finger
We may advise parents and children to leave their baby teeth alone even if they have decay on it in situations where the baby teeth are already starting to become wobbly or we know the adult teeth are about to push out from underneath the baby tooth. This is on the premise that it will come out within a 4-6 weeks.
BUT it is important to understand that if the tooth is decayed, there is a risk of toothache, pain, infection or abscess on the baby tooth if left untreated. If your child’s baby tooth is not going to fall out within the next 2-3 months, it may be necessary to provide treatment (like a filling) for the tooth to prevent the risk of any serious infection or abscesses
How to care for baby teeth? How to look after baby teeth?
One request a friend and mother asked us recently was to write about “how to care for baby teeth“. This is a really important topic and we’re glad she asked. Good oral hygiene and dietary habits affect the health of the mouth and teeth. The major risks of tooth decay are oral hygiene and diet, so we need to get this right!
Cleaning baby teeth
Baby teeth should be brushed twice daily - this trains your baby and you as the parent to be in a regular habit and routine
If there are only a handful of baby teeth at the moment, you can use finger brushes for babies or use a baby toothbrush for babies aged 0-2.5 years old. These brushes tend to be very small and very soft
If you find it hard to use a brush, you can use a clean small piece of cloth and gently rub the teeth to clean them
How long should you brush your baby’s teeth for? We recommend 2 minutes to children and adults. So for a baby’s teeth, as a rough guideline we would recommend brushing 30 seconds if your baby only has 2-6 teeth, 1 minute if your baby has 7-12 teeth and 2 minutes if your baby has 13-20 baby teeth
Once your child is 2.5-3 years old, all 20 of their baby teeth should be grown out. Your 2 year old may start to become Mr Independent or Miss Independent, but you should supervise and help with their brushing, especially the night time brushing until they’re about 6-7 years old when you’re confident they can brush well
What type of toothpaste? Buy toothpaste appropriate to your child’s age. There are generally toothpastes for under 3 year olds, between 3-6 years and 6-7 years old up to adults.
It’s important that your child can spit out before introducing fluoride toothpaste for your child. This is because too much ingestion (swallowing) of fluoride toothpaste can affect the development of their adult teeth and cause fluorosis or mottling where their teeth become weaker and patchy white or brown
How much toothpaste? Fluoride toothpaste isn’t necessary for babies under 3 years old, but if you do use toothpaste of any sort, please use a smear of toothpaste the size of grain of rice. Between the ages of 3-6 use a small pea sized amount of toothpaste After the age of 7, use a pea sized amount, not bigger than your pinky finger nail
Are you serious? Dr Ken would recommend introducing the routine of flossing once a week for kids as young as 4 or 5 years old to get them used to it and train them to know that flossing is important. By the time they’re 12 years old, all the adult teeth are out and you want your child to be already flossing regularly and knowing how to do it. If you wait too long, they won’t know how or form the habit. Start early!
Eating and Diet for baby teeth
Drink water regularly
Eat a variety of natural foods to maximise vitamins and nutrients
Brush their teeth before putting them to bed
Try to introduce harder foods as soon your child starts to teethe. It helps them to develop their jaw bones and muscles and mouth structure. If you’ve ever wondered why some kids can’t eat bread crust or hard foods, it’s because they were probably trained to eat soft foods all the time, and so their jaw bones and muscles never developed properly to allow them to eat harder foods well.
When introducing harder foods especially with vegetables, steam or boil foods to soften them a bit. It’s okay to add a bit of olive oil or butter and season it with salt and pepper.
Don’t give them a bottle when putting them to bed
Don’t give them lollies when putting them to bed
Don’t feed them sugar all the time. Sugar should be minimised because it increases the chance of tooth decay
Avoid bottles - they can affect posture of the tongue and development of the jaws and teeth. Don’t introduce bottles at all if you can. If they do use bottles,. wean them off before the age of 2
Avoid dummies - they can affect posture of the tongue and development of the jaws and teeth. Don’t introduce dummies at all if you can. If they do use dummies,. wean them off before the age of 2
Avoid sugars - if you brush your child and baby’s teeth well and avoid sugars, they are bound to have higher chances of healthy teeth!
From our staff at Capstone Dental Seven Hills, we hope that this article helps parents to understand that saving baby teeth aren’t pointless. While there may be very small and specific situations where you can leave them to fall out, there is a very large portion of teeth that should be saved and good reason behind it. The effects can be detrimental to your child’s jaw development, speech, eating and overall self esteem. It can be a most unfortunate, time consuming, and expensive consequence of losing ‘just a baby tooth’.