About Baby Teeth

A child’s teeth, called primary teeth are a vital part of your child’s health and development. Healthy primary teeth help your child chew and pronounce words.

By the time babies are born, they usually have 20 primary teeth that have formed inside the gums. The front teeth typically appear, or erupt into the mouth when the child is between the 6 and 12 months of age. You will see first molars appear at 13-19 months, canines or “I teeth” at 14-22 months, and the second molars at 2-3 years of age. Most children have their full set of 20 primary teeth by the time they are age three.


Normally, the first tooth erupts between ages 6 to 12 months. Gums are sore, tender and sometimes irritable until the age of 3. Rubbing sore gums gently with a clean finger, the back of a cold spoon or a cold, wet cloth helps soothe the gums. Teething rings work well, but avoid teething biscuits—they contain sugar that is not good for baby teeth. Oragel is another common over the counter medication that is commonly used to numb the gums surrounding the erupting teeth. This gel is not recommended because the numbing sensation does not last very long and many infants have a tendency to swallow the gel which causes a numbing sensation in the throat. Many children feel that they are choking or gagging due to this numbing sensation. Talk to your dentist about the indications for pain relief medications should your child have a fever or discomfort not alleviated by the aforementioned methods.

While your baby is teething, it is important to monitor the teeth for signs of baby bottle decay. Tooth decay can occur as soon as the first tooth erupts into the mouth. Examine the teeth, especially on the inside or the tongue side, every two weeks for dull spots (whiter than the tooth surface) or lines. A bottle containing anything other than water and left in an infant’s mouth while sleeping can cause decay. This happens because sugar in the liquid mixes with bacteria in dental plaque, forming acids that attack the tooth enamel. Each time a child drinks liquids containing sugar, acids attack the teeth for about 60 minutes.

The chances of a cavity developing during that 60 minutes is much higher. When awake, saliva carries away the acidic liquids. During sleep, the saliva flow significantly decreases and liquids pool around the child’s teeth for long periods, covering the teeth in acids.

Because decay can occur as early as age one, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that your child sees his/her pediatric dentist by age one. These early visits are aimed at prevention and the pediatric dentist evaluates your child’s teeth for normal development. She will answer all questions about diet, home care, and any other dentally related question just like a well child visit with the pediatrician. Your dentist will also check for problems such as early childhood caries.

Why Primary Teeth are Important

Parents wonder why baby tooth decay is a concern since these teeth will eventually be replaced by permanent teeth. Decay and infection of the baby teeth can often affect the formation or appearance of permanent teeth developing immediately below the baby teeth. Early loss of baby teeth can cause drifting or tipping of remaining teeth so that when the permanent tooth is ready to erupt, there is no longer adequate space in the mouth for the permanent tooth to erupt. Not to mention that decay of baby teeth often causes severe discomfort and prevents your child from eating normally.


A healthy diet is part of good oral health as well as general good health for your child. Select foods that are high in fiber and proteins and low in sugar. Good snack ideas include cheese sticks, ham or turkey slices, raw or steamed vegetables, and water. Avoid juices, soda, Sunny Delight, and Capri Sun packaged drinks. A better source of vitamin C would be fresh fruits and vegetables.

Permanent Teeth

The first permanent teeth to erupt are the four front teeth on the top and bottom jaw. The front permanent teeth typically erupt starting at ages 5-7. After the front teeth have erupted, the first permanent molar erupt behind the primary molars. No baby teeth are lost in order for the permanent molars to erupt so parents are often not aware that these teeth have erupted. It is important to note the emergence of these teeth as your pediatric dentist will recommend sealants to protect these teeth from decay. Children will continue to lose baby teeth and gain adult teeth until the age of 12-14 years old. The third molars or ‘wisdom teeth’ may not always erupt and may need to be removed. Visits to your pediatric dentist are crucial during this period as she will monitor the proper eruption of the permanent teeth, start preventive measures, and refer to the orthodontist at the optimal time. Should your child be missing any permanent teeth, your pediatric dentist will also plan early to give your child the best options in restoring those teeth.