Baby Teeth and Why They Are Important

Baby showing two front teeth.

Before we get adult or permanent teeth, we first have baby teeth. Everyone goes through this phase. It’s why it is essential to know about baby teeth, especially if you are about to become a parent or already are one. But you do not have to be a parent to be informed about this topic.

This blog post will give you all the pertinent information you need about baby teeth, from their importance to their stages to caring for them.


What Exactly are Baby Teeth?

Before anything else, we have to define the term first. When someone talks about “baby teeth,” this phrase is not entirely difficult to comprehend. In its simplest form, it’s mainly the set of teeth that babies have. Throughout our lifetime, we only have two sets of teeth. The first set is called baby teeth, and the second are your permanent or adult teeth.

You may also know baby teeth as deciduous or milk teeth. On average, there are 20 of them in an infant’s mouth. They start to erupt when the child is around six to eight months. But it takes time for them to appear fully. Usually, the last baby tooth becomes visible around the age of three. After some time, children will lose their teeth, which will now be replaced by adult or permanent teeth.

Fallen baby tooth on palm.


Why Do We Have Baby Teeth?

Although adults like us no longer have baby teeth, it does not mean they are unimportant. They have specific functions, especially in the orthodontic process. Baby teeth are tinier than permanent teeth. However, they create space for adult teeth, so that when the latter start to grow, they will automatically grasp the correct position in the mouth.

So why did we grow baby teeth when we’re just going to lose them? Believe it or not, baby teeth are just as important as adult teeth, especially in orthodontics.

Here are the reasons why:

  • They are necessary for your child to chew food.
  • Children need teeth to speak.
  • They save space for the permanent teeth of the child.
  • They keep their position until permanent teeth are ready to erupt from the gums.
  • Without baby teeth or early tooth loss, adult teeth can drift into another area in the mouth. Other teeth will find it difficult to find the right room for themselves. It’s when the teeth become crowded or crooked.
  • If baby teeth are well taken care of, parents are assured that the erupting permanent teeth will be healthy. Permanent teeth are adjacent to the roots of the milk teeth. Since baby teeth are smaller, it is easy for cavities to spread fast. The enamel is thin as well, which means it can get damaged quickly. If left untreated, cavities can cause infection or abscess. The most significant consequence is that it can hinder the development of teeth. It’s one of the reasons why permanent teeth grow unhealthy even before erupting.
  • Baby teeth require proper oral hygiene, which should start as soon as the first tooth appears. By encouraging the child to practise good and regular oral cleaning, cavities are kept at bay. There are no emergencies, and the child enjoys speaking, smiling, and eating.
  • Teeth are also necessary for speaking. Without teeth, the tongue, cheeks, and lips will not form the correct sounds. Correct positioning of baby teeth helps in the proper pronunciation of words while talking.
  • The tooth structure is essential in getting the support that facial muscles need as they develop. With the help of the teeth, your child’s face will be shaped correctly.

Growing baby teeth can cause your child dental pain. When a problem occurs, discomfort can greatly affect their mood and concentration. If you have already experienced a toothache, this hinders your ability to pay attention. The same thing happens to kids. They miss the opportunity to learn in school due to a toothache or any dental pain. Also, decayed teeth can interfere with social interactions, which can impact the child’s self-esteem.

The bottom line is that parents should teach children about developing proper oral care practices while they still have their primary teeth. Early, simple habits, including brushing teeth two times daily, can help ensure that the growing permanent teeth will stay healthy for life.

A yong boy with complete set of baby teeth.


The Baby Teeth Timeline

As mentioned above, baby teeth can begin to appear around six to eight months. However, some babies develop their first few teeth around the fourth month. Here is a guide on the sequence of how baby teeth erupt:


1. The First Eight Front Teeth Develop at Four to 16 Months.

These teeth are called the incisors, which are used to help babies grip or bite solid food and cut them into tinier pieces. They appear thin with a sharp edge.

  • Four to 10 months: Two bottom teeth at the front breakthrough, which are known as the lower central incisors. Most babies experience an eruption around six months, although some can start as early as four months or as late as one year (or more). Babies who were born prematurely typically take longer for their teeth to come through.
  • Eight to 12 months: Around this age, the baby’s upper central incisors follow.
  • Nine to 13 months: The upper lateral incisors begin to appear at this age. They are the teeth next to the upper central incisors.
  • Ten to 16 months: The lower lateral incisors appear soon after. They are the teeth right next to the lower central incisors.


2. In the Next Stage, the First Molars Become Visible, Which Are the Back Teeth.

They are distinguishable because they are much broader and are located at the back of the mouth. Because of their larger size, they are used for grinding when your child chews food.

  • 13 to 19 months: The first molars in the upper jaw typically erupt first with one on either side of the mouth.
  • 14 to 20 months: The lower first molars appear shortly after. It is not uncommon to find babies with lower and upper first molars growing at the same time.


3. The Third Stage Involves the Eye Teeth, Which Are Also Known as Baby Canines.

You may know canines as the sharpest teeth, which we all use for ripping and tearing.

  • 16 to 22 months: The eye teeth in the upper jaw erupt to fill the space between the grown back molars and front incisors.
  • 17 to 23 months: Lower eye teeth follow.


4. The Last Stage, the Second Molars Erupt.

This part of teeth development for young children is quite crucial. Parents need to watch out for signs of crowding, for example. This stage defines how the face and jaw are shaped, which can dictate whether or not the child needs braces.

  • 25 to 33 months: Both the upper and lower second molars break through during this age.

You may have noticed that teeth grow in pairs. Some kids, however, tend to stray from the norm. Nevertheless, it is not something that parents should be worried about. Around the age of three, the child already has a full set of teeth!


Teething Signs and Symptoms to Watch Out For

Crying baby biting on his fingers.


Baby teeth can appear at any time, starting from four to a year. On average, however, teething begins at six months. The whole teething process usually stops at three, but some babies have a complete set at the age of two.

If you have noticed that your baby has become more irritable, it can be a sign of teething. The discomfort should last for a few days, although it can take longer for some kids. It is common for teeth eruption to be a little painful, but some don’t deal with it at all. Usually, those who are younger suffer from the teething process.

Aside from irritability, your child can also show the following signs:

  • Sulkiness
  • Red, swollen gums
  • Excessive drooling
  • No appetite
  • Chin or cheek redness, which can appear as rashes
  • Restlessness
  • Less sleep
  • Ear pulling
  • Face rubbing
  • Increased biting and sucking

Even if your child shows one or more of the symptoms above, please note that teething is not the only cause. If you are worried, do not hesitate to have a paediatrician check your baby’s condition.

Symptoms are believed to be worse at night, but it is mostly because there are fewer distractions. Your child can feel the discomfort and may find it difficult to sleep through the night.

Frequently, the first eight teeth do not cause any pain for the child. However, when the bigger second molars break through, it is when the kid becomes more irritable.


How to Care for Baby Teeth

A finger brushing baby's teeth with finger brush.


Good oral hygiene does not have to start when the child has permanent teeth. In fact, parents should enforce their children to begin cleaning and eating right even before adult teeth have erupted. This way, tooth decay can be avoided.


1. Brushing Baby’s Teeth

  • When new teeth have erupted, parents should guide their children in brushing teeth. This task should be performed twice every day. It is useful training, which encourages kids to turn brushing into a healthy, regular habit.
  • You do not need a full toothbrush if there are just a handful of baby teeth. You can buy a finger brush so that cleaning will be a breeze. Some toothbrushes are designed for babies who are from zero to two and a half years old. The bristles are soft and small, perfect for their tiny mouths.
  • Some children are not very welcoming of the new routine. It can be difficult and frustrating for the parent. In such a case, you can get a clean piece of cloth and rub it on the teeth.
  • Once all teeth have erupted, your child may want to brush their teeth on their own. Even so, you should still be around to guide them, especially at night to ensure the teeth are clean before bed. Once they are six to seven years old, they may be able to do the job on their own without your supervision.

Brushing your baby’s teeth should be of the same duration when you brush your own. Dentists recommend two minutes for both children and adults. However, if your baby only has a few teeth, brushing does not have to take this long.

For example, if the baby has two to six teeth at the moment, brushing can be done for 30 seconds. For seven to 12 teeth, you may want to keep brushing for about a minute. If there are at least 13 teeth, it is safe to brush for two minutes.


2. Using Toothpaste

  • There are various types of toothpaste on the Australian market these days. Look at the label and determine whether it is appropriate for your child. It should state the age that the toothpaste is designed for. You will commonly find “under three-year-old” and “between three to six years” variants.
  • Fluoride is the most commonly used toothpaste, even for kids. However, you must not allow your child to use this type of toothpaste while he or she cannot spit out yet. Allow the kid to learn that swallowing toothpaste is not okay; otherwise ingesting too much fluoride can cause problems for the adult teeth. Additionally, fluorosis can take place, which means that teeth can become weaker with white or brown patches.
  • You may have heard about giving pea-sized toothpaste to a child. If the baby is younger than three years, avoid fluoride toothpaste at all costs. If you do use any toothpaste, a smear, equivalent to the size of a rice grain, is the perfect measurement. Meanwhile, kids who are at least three years old that can spit the toothpaste out can use a fluoride product. It’s when the pea-sized amount is applicable.

At the age of seven and beyond, you can add a little bit of toothpaste but still maintain the pea-sized amount. It means it should not be bigger than your pinkie fingernail.


3. Teeth Flossing

  • Some parents may be against the idea, but you can start flossing your child as early as four years old or when the first teeth have erupted. This way, the child will already be familiar with the method and incorporate flossing into their own routine by 12 years old.

It is often difficult to add flossing into the oral care habit once the child is older than 12. If you start too late, it may take a while for them to know what to do.


4. Eating Healthy

  • Just like with adults, eating the right food is one of the best ways to keep baby teeth healthy.
  • Drinking plenty of water is essential.
  • Eating natural food, especially vegetables, can help in getting the nutrients that the teeth require.
  • Introducing harder food as the teeth begin to erupt is useful for the development of jaw muscles and bones, as well as the mouth structure. You may have noticed that some kids are not used to eating even bread crust. It’s mostly because they were only given soft foods while teething.
  • When preparing vegetables and other hard food, boil or steam them first. You can season it with salt and pepper and even add a bit of butter for flavour.

Don’t let your kids go to bed without brushing their teeth. If your child is still drinking milk from the bottle, wean them from it, especially when putting to bed. Letting your child drink from the bottle can affect the posture of the tongue and teeth development. If you have already introduced bottles, wean the child before they reach two years. The same rule applies to dummies.

Also, never give lollies or anything sweet before bed. As much as possible, keep them away from any sugar, whether it is day or night. This way, tooth decay risk can be decreased.


Baby Teeth FAQs: Questions That Many Parents Need Answers For

Baby chewing on teething toy.


1. What Is Teeth Exfoliation? Is It the Same as Eruption?

You may have heard about the term “exfoliation” from your paediatric dentist or someone else. Exfoliation and eruption are not the same, but they are related to each other. When the tooth crown has formed, the root starts to develop. And that’s when the tooth eruption takes place. It is the movement of the tooth to get into its correct and permanent position. It usually takes three years for the crown development to complete until the permanent tooth emerges.

On the other hand, exfoliation is the shedding of the teeth. When the baby tooth is ready to fall out, permanent teeth will soon erupt. The root of the baby tooth loses structure, which is a process known as resorption. The tooth erupts from underneath the gums before they become visible.


2. What Can You Do to Ease Your Child’s Discomfort Due to Teething?

Children can complain about the pain, often by crying and not eating well. As a parent, it can be alarming, which is why you may want to perform a few ways using home remedies for relieving their symptoms.

Here are some suggestions:

  • When your fingers are clean, massage the gums, which may be quite sore. Apply gentle counter-pressure to give your baby some pain relief.
  • Give teething toys, which are soft and made of rubber or plastic. They are rated safe for your baby, and they can chew on these toys, which somehow alleviates the discomfort.
  • Let your child gnaw on a chilled, damp washcloth, which can relieve some of the swelling on the gums.
  • Give some frozen bananas, cucumber slices, and other fruits. Let your baby chew and eat them to get some temporary relief.

Sometimes, home remedies may not work, so you can turn to your dentist or paediatrician to know how to counter the pain.

Be there for your baby during this time, especially if it is difficult for them. You may have trouble sleeping, which is why you should maintain a routine to ensure you and your baby get enough shut-eye.


3. Should You Stop Breastfeeding Your Baby?

Mothers tend to get scared when the baby starts teething because they may bite. If you are worried about biting, you can massage their gums gently using a finger or knuckle. It helps with their discomfort. If they bite, you can pull away and yell “Ouch!” to get the message across.


4. Is It Normal for a Baby to Stop Eating Less While Teething?

Yes, some babies do not want to eat as they used to when their teeth are erupting. Even though it happens to several infants, make sure that you talk to your doctor if the hunger strike continues for a few days.


5. Is it true that teething causes babies to have diarrhoea?

No, teething should not lead to more soiled nappies. If diarrhoea persists for more than 24 hours, talk to your paediatrician immediately. Also, don’t forget to keep the baby hydrated.


6. Why Are Baby Teeth Much Whiter Than Adult Teeth?

These two sets of teeth are entirely different, especially in composition. Teeth have two primary layers: enamel (white) and dentine (yellowish beige). Baby teeth look whiter because they have more enamel than dentine while it is the opposite with adult teeth.


7. Should Your Child See an Orthodontist After Losing Their Baby Teeth?

According to the Australian Society of Orthodontics, children should visit an orthodontist at the age of seven. It is when the first adult teeth have started to appear, allowing the orthodontist to assess the tooth loss process. At the same time, the orthodontist can see if the child has the correct size and shape of the jaws. By visiting an orthodontist, potential issues can be flagged.

Early intervention can help reduce the need for braces or any future orthodontic treatment. It is ideal for both the parents and the young patient because pre-emptive treatment is much easier and faster than surgical procedures.

Oasis Orthodontics Entrance and Front Desk.

Oasis Orthodontics specialises in orthodontic issues, including improper bite, which can be evident even at a young age. Our goal is to help everyone achieve a beautiful smile through a wide range of services, including early intervention for your child.

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Kingsley Orthodontics is now called Oasis Orthodontics. We are now operating in two locations: Clarkson and Kingsley.