Welcoming a bright and shiny child into your family is one of life’s greatest joys. The moment also ushers in years of challenges, frustrations, learning, and teaching; the likes of which you never thought possible. All from a little bundle of buoyant energy.
Most every parent will agree that an especially trying element of a child’s youngest years is managing those times when she cries from some type of pain. Knowing what causes it and what to do about it is frustrating at best, and often tear-jerking.
Baby teeth are often the culprit. You don’t expect your three-month-old to cry and fuss due to teething, or a child turning 1 to still only have a single tooth visible. What is a flummoxed parent to do? One of the best solutions is awareness of the complexities and variances of growing teeth.
The baby teeth transition
Most baby teeth “come in” or erupt in the same progression and time sequence for all babies but there is a great deal of flux in terms of developing a full set of healthy teeth. For example, did you know that baby teeth begin forming before birth? There are 20 of them under the gums and even though none of them have locked-in emergence dates, it is very helpful for parents to be aware of traditional teething patterns.
Let’s look at the growing path of a baby’s first wave of teeth:
Many parents remember the days of having their fingers pierced by their baby’s incisors; razor sharp teeth that can feel like a tiger’s fang. Incisors are designed to bite into food and are the earliest teeth to arrive. The lower central incisors (the bottom front) usually come in first, when the child is 6-10 months old. At 8-12 months, the upper incisors arrive. Upper lateral incisors, on either side of front teeth, reveal themselves at 9-13 months. Finally, the lower lateral incisors erupt at 10-16 months.
Between the first molars and incisors are the cuspids, or canines. These teeth have a strong and pointed shape that allows a child to grip and break apart food. The two upper canines make an appearance at 16-22 months old, and the lower pair arrives in 17-22 months.
By the time a child is 3 years old she should have a full set of baby teeth. The second pair of bottom molars begins to erupt at 23-31 months, and the final two upper molars at 25-33 months.
Baby teeth and your child’s health
Baby teeth play a critical role in your child’s health. They are the foundation in developing muscles in the jaw and ace, they help a child eat and chew properly, and they are responsible for creating space for adult teeth to efficiently come in.
When your little one beams a full, white smile, it is important to continue regular care. Just as feeding, when and how often to nap, and potty training are different for every child; the same holds true for the emergence of baby teeth. Here are some general rules of thumb to help navigate these years:
- Every 6 months, roughly 4 teeth will emerge
- Lower teeth emerge ahead of upper teeth
- Girls’ teeth usually erupt before boys’
- Upper and lower jaws see teeth erupt in pairs; on the left and right sides
- Primary teeth are smaller and whiter than permanent teeth
- A child should have all baby teeth visible at age 2-3
Just after reaching age 4, other big things start happening. Your child’s jaw and facial bones start growing in earnest and build spaces between her baby teeth in a natural growing step to make room for permanent teeth. Most children will see a mx of baby and permanent teeth at ages 6-12 and the baby teeth are the first to give the face its appearance and helps develop clear speech patterns.
Among myriad other parental responsibilities, keep the following oral care tips in mind:
- Add fluoride to your child’s diet at 6 months to help prevent tooth decay and harden tooth enamel
- Massage sore gums or give your child something cold to help ease teething pain
- Brush your child’s teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste