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What You Need to Know about Baby Teeth and Teething

One of the most adorable things in the world is a smile showing off baby’s first teeth. Emerging baby teeth may bring a host of questions to a parent’s mind.

When will each tooth come in? What do you need to do to take care of them?

How do you handle teething? When should a dentist examine new teeth?

What happens if a baby tooth is injured or gets a cavity?


Normally, a child will have 20 baby teeth. These teeth have many names, including primary teeth, deciduous teeth, milk teeth, fall teeth or temporary teeth. Interestingly, primary teeth start developing while a baby is still in its mother’s womb and all the primary teeth are already formed in the jaw by the time a baby is born. A pregnant woman’s food choices have a huge impact on the healthy development of her baby’s teeth. A healthy diet that includes plenty of calcium, vitamins C and D, and phosphorus helps the teeth to develop correctly.

Occasionally, a baby is born with a tooth or two, but usually, the first tooth erupts between the ages of 6 and 10 months. Every child is different, so your baby’s first tooth could appear months earlier or later than the usual timeline. Two of the front bottom teeth (incisors) appear first, followed by the four upper incisors, creating the cutest first teeth smile. The chart below shows the average timeframe for each primary tooth to erupt. Notice that the first set of molars usually erupts before the canine teeth, so it is normal for your child to have a gap between their incisors and molars for a while.


While seeing your baby’s first teeth arrive is an exciting time, it can also be uncomfortable and stressful. Some lucky babies’ teeth erupt with a minimum of fuss. Others seem to arrive with an abundance of tears and crying. The discomfort is caused by the pressure of the tooth pushing up against the gum and then cutting through it. There are some steps you can take to soothe your child, but if the pain lasts over a week or seems excessive, make an appointment with their doctor or dentist.

Common symptoms include drooling, puffy gums, biting and chewing on everything, and rubbing their face or pulling on their ears. They will probably not be as interested in feeding. Crying, fussiness or being cranky are also common. You would feel cranky too if you were in that much pain! Teething may cause a slight rise in temperature, but, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, anything over 100.4 is not a symptom of teething and indicates that they are ill.

There are many techniques to help soothe your teething baby. One of the most effective is to gently massage the area with a clean finger. Another is to let them chew or suck on something cool, like a pacifier or wet washcloth fresh out of the refrigerator. Once they are old enough, chilled foods can also be helpful, and may help encourage them to eat when their appetite is decreased from the pain. Be careful about offering frozen items though, because they may actually hurt the gums. Other babies may prefer chewing on harder teething toys.

Don’t forget that a hurting, fussy baby will often be soothed best by cuddling. Breastfeeding or being cuddled while bottle feeding will also provide comfort and soothe the uncomfortable sensation of teething. Try not to begin weaning during teething times as it could make the process far more difficult.

Caring for Baby Teeth

It is important to begin caring for your baby’s teeth when the first one erupts. This is the time to begin brushing their teeth twice a day with a rice-sized amount of children’s toothpaste on a soft toddler’s toothbrush. It is also important to begin flossing once their teeth begin to touch one another. As your child grows, begin teaching them the correct way to brush and care for their teeth and be sure to keep brushing their teeth for them until they are seven years old.

Your child’s first visit to a dentist should be scheduled before their first birthday, but you can bring them in as soon as their first tooth erupts. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that you establish a dental home for your child by age one. If you find a trustworthy pediatric dentist who focuses on making children comfortable, you will begin establishing a lifetime of positive visits.

At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry and Orthodontics, we work to provide an excellent dental home for your child. Dr. Culp has placed a strong emphasis on creating a fun, jungle-themed environment that helps children relax and feel comfortable. He focuses on preventative care and education, to avoid restorative treatment. Our entire team is kind and gentle, encouraging trust and cooperation and our goal is for your child to enjoy a lifetime of dental health.

Tooth Decay

Unfortunately, even children, toddlers, and babies can have tooth decay. Keeping baby teeth healthy and decay free is important for many reasons. Primary teeth help shape and form the face and prepare your child’s mouth for permanent teeth. They help your child chew, speak and smile. It doesn’t seem like they will have baby teeth for long, but some of them need to stay healthy for over 10 years! With such important functions, you want to do all you can to keep primary teeth as healthy as possible.

You can help your child avoid cavities. Practicing good oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist can help prevent decay. Nutrition also plays a vital role in dental health. Once it is appropriate for their age, provide plenty of dairy and fresh fruits and vegetables, while limiting foods and drinks with a high sugar or carbohydrate content.

If your child does develop a cavity, it is important to get it treated right away. Dr. Culp is conservative in his approach to pediatric dentistry and will try to preserve the original tooth structure by monitoring early signs of decay. If your child does need treatment for a cavity, he specializes in calming techniques to minimize your child’s anxiety and help ensure that they remain relaxed during their treatment.

Dental Injuries or Emergencies

Injuries to your child’s mouth can be terrifying, especially because they seem to bleed so much. In the panic of the moment, it may be hard to know what to do. What should you do in the case of a dental emergency?

It is helpful to have a plan, and this is another reason that it is important for your child to have a dental home where they feel safe and comfortable. They are much more likely to respond well to an exam when they are hurt if they know and trust the dentist and have a positive memory of previous experiences in the office.

When your child’s mouth is bleeding, rinse the area gently and put a cold compress on the injury. If your child has significant trauma to the mouth, including a cracked or chipped tooth, or a tooth knocked out (unless it was a loose baby tooth), call us as soon as possible to schedule a visit for Dr. Culp to evaluate the damage. If a tooth was knocked out, Dr. Culp may be able to save the tooth by re-implanting it. Pick it up by the crown, keep it in milk and bring your child in as soon as possible. Anytime you are concerned about your child’s dental health we are happy to help. Just give us a call and we will discuss the situation and options with you.

Losing Baby Teeth

Seeing your baby’s first tooth is thrilling, and it is just as exciting when they get their first loose tooth. This is the beginning of a new phase that comes with its own milestones and challenges. As you can see from the chart provided above, the first baby tooth will usually shed around age six or seven, and the last one around age twelve.

The baby teeth make way for the 32 permanent teeth, and this is usually a smooth process. Dr. Culp encourages kids to wiggle out their own baby teeth, but there are a few reasons why a tooth may need to be evaluated. Occasionally teeth will grow in wrong, or baby teeth will stick around after the permanent tooth comes in, causing your child to need early orthodontic care or an extraction. Dr. Culp and his team perform tooth extractions almost daily, and it is typically a very smooth and easy process!

Every child is different, and their teeth will erupt and shed on different timelines or sequences than the average. We provided information for the average child, but don’t freak out if your child’s teeth erupt far earlier or later than the usual, or even out of order. If you follow the recommendation of finding a dental home for your child by their first birthday, their dentist will keep an eye on your child’s tooth development and let you know if there is any cause for concern. The most important thing to remember is to take care of those baby teeth and help your child learn to do the same!

At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.

Call Us - (480) 759-1119

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