Everything You Need to Know About Baby Teeth

In this blog we will try to answer all of your frequently asked questions about baby teeth; an interesting topic which is relevant for everyone who is having a baby, has just had a baby, or is just plain curious.

Why do we have baby teeth?

It would be easy to think that baby teeth aren’t all that important. After all, they just fall out on their own after a while. Baby teeth are small and cute, but they have several important functions!

The first reason why we have baby teeth is simply a matter of space. Babies and young children simply don’t have the jaw space in their growing craniums to accommodate the number and size of permanent teeth humans have. We also can’t preserve our baby teeth our whole lives because they would be too small and spaced out for our adult jaws.

Baby teeth are also important because they let us chew food. Having baby teeth gets us accustomed to having teeth, which is important for the development of speech and oral muscles, so we couldn’t just skip the baby teeth and go straight to adult teeth later.

In addition, they function as placeholders for your adult teeth and keeps their seat warm, metaphorically speaking. If a baby tooth is lost or removed, the teeth on its sides will move into the open space, which makes it harder for the permanent tooth to come through later.

How many teeth do babies have?

Babies grow a total of 20 teeth, 10 upper teeth and 10 lower teeth. When they fall out, they are replaced by 32 adult permanent teeth, so you can see why a baby wouldn’t have room for another 12 teeth!

Are baby teeth more susceptible to cavities?

There is some evidence that baby teeth have a thinner layer of enamel, which could mean that it takes a shorter amount of time for bacteria to erode the enamel and cause cavities.

That said, you can’t blame the teeth themselves. Cavities are caused by bacteria that eats sugar and produces acid (link to “Why is Sugar Bad for Teeth” blog), so it makes more sense to blame a lacking dental hygiene routine: 80% of cavities occur in just 25% of children.

Babies and children need to brush and floss their teeth, just like you, and you will probably need to help them for the first 7 or 8 years of their lives.

Are baby teeth made of milk?

Baby teeth’s scientific name is deciduous teeth, but are often referred to as milk teeth, temporary teeth or primary teeth. Milk teeth are not made of milk. They have the same structure as your permanent teeth, and are called milk teeth because they are the teeth your child get while weaning.

When do baby teeth come in?

Teething can start as early as at the age of 2 months, but it is more common to begin around 6 months old. Here are the typical times for baby teeth to come in:

Central incisors : 6–12 months
Lateral incisors : 9–16 months
First molars : 13–19 months
Canine teeth : 16–23 months
Second molars : 22–33 months

Keep in mind that this will vary from person to person.

When do they fall out?

Again, this will vary greatly, but most children lose their first tooth around the age of 6, and should lose their last baby tooth around 12 or 13.

Which teeth come in first?

It’s typical that the central lower incisors come in first.


Image source: Wikipedia

Which teeth fall first?

First in, first out. As a rule of thumb, baby teeth fall out in the same order they came in.

Are some of them permanent?

None of your baby teeth are meant to become permanent, but they can in a pinch. Approximately 5% of the time, a permanent tooth fails to develop, or develops too late. In these cases, there’s no tooth to push the baby tooth out, and it will stay in place. There’s nothing wrong with this, and the tooth will last a lifetime if cared for properly.

Baby teeth have gaps between then?

It’s completely normal to have gaps between baby teeth, and it is found in around 40% of children.

Are baby teeth supposed to be jagged?

Jagged bumps on teeth is called mamelons, and it is normal. It will wear away with time as you child chews and eats.

Can baby teeth come in crooked?

They can, and it shouldn’t be a problem. This can be caused by genetics, thumb sucking or having gaps between teeth. As long as it isn’t getting worse over time, your child will be alright.

How to brush your baby’s teeth?

You should start caring for your baby’s dental health as soon as their first tooth erupts. You can start by wiping their gums with a soft cloth before their first tooth erupts to get them used to the sensation. Progress to gently brushing with a small, soft toothbrush and water.

At 18 months of age, you can start incorporating small amounts of low-flouride toothpaste, and encourage them to spit after brushing. Rinsing with water is unnecessary, and letting the toothpaste sit on the teeth can provide some extra protection throughout the day.

Brush twice a day, and start flossing when they are around 2 or 3 years old. You’ll probably need to help them floss until they are around 8-10.

Children will likely need your help to brush until they are around 7 or 8 years old, but that doesn’t mean that your job is over. You should still lead with example in the oral hygiene department because children take after their parents.

What’s the difference between baby teeth and adult teeth?

The main difference between baby teeth and permanent teeth is that baby teeth have thinner layers of enamel and dentin. They are also smaller and there are fewer of them – 20 baby teeth and 32 permanent teeth.

Your baby’s first dentist appointment

Your baby needs to see the dentist, just like you do. The Australian Dental Association recommends that your baby has their first dentist check-up when “their first tooth becomes visible or when they reach 12 months of age”, whichever comes first.

Of course, your baby’s dentist appointments are as much for you as it is for your bubba. During your visit, you might have discussions and learn more about teething, brushing techniques, habits like thumb sucking, tooth decay, what you can do to prevent it, and more.

Tooth decay can start as soon as the first tooth appears, so it’s important that you start brushing your little one’s teeth right away. Use a soft children’s brush twice a day, but avoid using toothpaste until they are 18 months old.

Click here for more children’s dentistry advice. Looking for a dentist in Cairns? Click here to book an appointment with us!

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