All About Baby Teeth: Here's What to Expect
There's a wide range of "normal" when it comes to the cycle of a baby teething, losing their baby teeth, and having adult teeth break through. Starting in infancy, your child's mouth will continue to evolve until their last baby tooth falls out (usually by age 12). And a lot happens in that time! While every individual child's timeline will be different, there are some general rules of children's oral health that are universal.
We turned to the experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics to answer five of parents' most pressing questions about baby teeth.
When Will My Baby's First Teeth Come In?
Six months is the average age at which a baby's first tooth will likely appear, but don't be alarmed if they show up before then, or if your baby hits their first birthday without a single tooth! The first teeth to erupt are usually the lower front teeth (the lower central incisors). Most children will have all of their baby teeth by age 3.
How Can I Help Alleviate Teething Pain?
The telltale signs of a tooth being ready to come through include swollen gums and excessive drool. To help their baby through the discomfort, parents can massage their gums with clean fingers, or offer a solid teething ring or a frozen or wet washcloth. The AAP advises against teething tablets and gels containing belladonna or benzocaine, and does not condone the use of amber teething necklaces (these can pose a choking hazard and are not proven to be medically effective).
When Should I Start Brushing My Baby's Teeth?
Once your baby's first tooth erupts, you should brush their teeth twice a day with a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste (the AAP recommends it be the size of a grain of rice). This is especially important after the last meal of the day. Once your child is 3, the amount of toothpaste can increase to the size of pea. A parent or caretaker should do the brushing for their child, and continue to supervise brushing until they are 7 or 8 years of age.
When Should I First Take My Baby to the Dentist?
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry agree that babies should see a pediatric dentist by age 1 (or after their first tooth appears — whichever comes first). While it may seem young, establishing a rapport with a medical professional from an early age will establish that your child's oral health is normal, or help to get ahead of any potential issues.
What's the Story With Fluoride?
The AAP recommends adding fluoride to your baby's diet at 6 months to help prevent tooth decay by hardening the enamel of the teeth. Fluoride can often be found in tap water, which your baby can take from a sippy or straw cup as soon as they begin eating solids, but the cleanliness of your water source will vary by city, so make sure to check that the water is safe to drink before giving it to your child. Your pediatrician can help you to determine whether the water in your area contains adequate fluoride, or if supplements are necessary. Bottled water generally does not contain fluoride.
You can also ask your pediatrician or pediatric dentist about fluoride varnish, which is often recommended once the baby's teeth have come in.