My wife and I are expecting our second child! We’ve been incredibly blessed with our first daughter, Morgan Marie. She has been a joy to our family and we look forward to our next. Since we found out about our second baby, I thought about patients who have young children and the many questions that they usually ask. Parents always ask me, “When should I brush my kid’s teeth?” or “Why hasn’t my child’s tooth come in yet?” It’s important to educate parents on how to take care of their children’s teeth early on since they can significantly impact the prevention of tooth decay in their children and promote good dental hygiene at a young age. My goal as a dentist is to provide every patient the best possible experience. A bad experience at the dentist early in a child’s life can make future experiences worse. Let’s start from the beginning.
“When do baby teeth develop?”
Baby teeth start to develop around the sixth week of pregnancy. They begin as dental lamina, which is epithelial tissue (the part of tissue that covers your organs) that help connect the tooth bud to the oral cavity. Usually, the dental lamina goes away as the
tooth matures, but sometimes it stays around and ends
up becoming an eruption cyst which forms prior to the tooth erupting. These look like tiny white dots that parents sometimes get worried about (see picture on the left). Morgan had an eruption cyst prior to some of her teeth erupting. They are quite common and we do see them often. Don’t worry; this resolves on its own when the tooth erupts, and it is not painful (although teething is happening as well, so watch out!). By the time you reach your eighth or ninth week of pregnancy, all 10 upper and 10 lower tooth buds are formed and have begun to mature. These 20 teeth will be your deciduous, or baby, teeth.
“When will my baby’s teeth begin to erupt?”
Baby teeth, called neonatal teeth, can be present at birth. Neonatal teeth are not seen too often, but when they are present, they are usually left there. Unfortunately, they come with a little discomfort for the baby and mother (especially if she is breastfeeding). Baby teeth can erupt much later, closer to 2 years old! Below is an AVERAGE expectancy of eruption of baby teeth starting from the front two and working our way back:
Central Incisor (the front two upper and lower teeth): 6-12 months
Lateral Incisor: 8-13 months (the teeth next to the front two)
Canine: 16-22 months
First Molar: 13-19 months
Second Molar: 23-33 months
“Can my child get a cavity?”
Tooth decay is, unfortunately, very prevalent in our society. The American diet consists of food and drink that can cause decay. Here is a link to common questions parents have about cavities. Morgan is 15 months old and my wife and I are currently working on getting rid of baby bottles. Some pediatricians recommend getting rid of bottles around 12 months of age. This is recommended because babies sometimes have juice in their bottles around this time and juice can cause cavities. When your baby wakes up at 2 in the morning and you don’t even know what time it is or which way the kitchen is, you just want to get your baby back to sleep! Many parents will give their child a bottle in bed and go back to sleep. This is where we see our first problem – tooth decay beginning at a young age. Some babies will keep that bottle in their mouth and use it as a pacifier. Have you seen the experiment where a tooth is submerged in Coca-Cola? The tooth basically disintegrates from the acid; the same thing can happen to your baby’s teeth. If the decay gets too large, this can cause pain (like an adult may feel if they have a large cavity). This is why it’s important to regularly have your teeth checked – to keep that pain away.
“When should my child get their first dental check up?”
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends your baby’s first dental check-up at 12 months. 12 months should be the earliest, and once your baby’s first tooth comes in being the latest. Now this is not your normal dental exam, where you get x-rays and I would go around with my “iron hook”, as Bill Cosby once said, looking for decay. (by the way, a great clip about going to the dentist can be seen here…it’s great!). It is a very informal, education session for the parents so I can tell them what to expect and proper ways to brush, floss, and care for their child’s teeth and gums. Many parents bring their child in when they get their own teeth cleaned. We never charge for something like this; it’s meant to get your child familiar and comfortable with the office. It’s amazing what children can remember. Giving them a good first dental visit is a great way to start their dental experiences off on the right foot.
In my next post, I will be tackling children’s teeth from ages 1-6. I’ll discuss what is happening and what to expect in addition to offering recommendations to try if your child doesn’t want to brush their teeth. If you find this article helpful, we would appreciate you “liking” it, or even sharing it on your wall. Do you know someone who might find this helpful? Give them a link to it through private messaging – whatever it takes. We will always give a complimentary dental “education session” for your child. Feel free to call our office at (989) 799-6220. You can always email me with questions directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll gladly provide you with all the information you may need.