The first set of teeth your child grows go by many names – baby teeth, deciduous teeth, milk teeth, primary teeth. But what do you actually know about this first set of teeth?
“It’s a common misconception for parents that because these primary teeth are just going to fall out anyway, they don’t really need to pay close attention to them,” says Dr. Nanna Ariaban, an Alpharetta pediatric dentist. “But, that’s just not true. If we won’t properly care for our children’s teeth, it can cause problems with eating and speech, which can affect their daily lives.”
So let’s talk baby teeth.
New parents often wonder when they can expect their baby’s first tooth to erupt. While each child’s teeth will erupt on a unique schedule, Dr. Nanna says that six months of age is the time parents can begin to expect the first tooth.
The first teeth to erupt are usually the bottom middle teeth, known as the central incisors.
This will typically be followed by the top four front teeth, and the remainder of the teeth will slowly begin to fill in, with your child having all 20 teeth by about the third birthday. The molars will be the last to come in, typically between ages two and a half and three.
“You can typically expect that once the first tooth erupts, then every six months after, about four new teeth will erupt,” says Dr. Nanna. “And if you are the parent of both girls and boys, you may have noticed that your girls had their teeth at a younger age than the boys.”
Lost tooth schedule
The baby teeth will usually fall out in the same order they came in. Around the age of six, your child’s mouth will start to make room for the permanent teeth. The teeth will typically fall out in the following order: lower central incisors, upper central incisors, lateral incisors, molars and canines. The last baby tooth typically falls out by age 12.
The primary teeth stay in place until the permanent tooth begins to push it out. It is important that your child’s teeth fall out on time, and in the proper order.
Losing a tooth too early, due to an accident, decay or another reason, may cause issues with how the permanent teeth erupt.
Why are baby teeth important?
Because the baby teeth are just going to be replaced with permanent teeth one day, you may not think it is important to pay close attention to your young child’s dental care. But Dr. Ariaban says that just isn’t true.
“Early childhood caries, or dental decay that leads to cavities, is the number one chronic childhood issue, affecting even more children than asthma,” says Dr. Ariaban. “Pain associated with decay can cause your child to lose focus in school, miss days from school, and can affect their health because they are unable to chew properly and therefore can’t receive proper nutrition. It is crucial to begin proper oral hygiene habits at an early age.”
Healthy teeth are so important for your child’s overall development. Our teeth help us develop clear speech and provide a healthy start for the permanent teeth. The baby teeth hold the spaces for the permanent teeth, and if one is lost too early, the permanent teeth can erupt in the wrong locations, causing the need for more extensive orthodontic work in the future than otherwise might have been needed.
“Begin modeling good oral hygiene habits for your children, so they see that you make your dental care a priority,” says Dr. Nanna. “And, begin a relationship with a pediatric dentist by your child’s first birthday. Your child’s baby teeth play an important role in their development, and together with a children’s dentist, you can ensure you set your child up for a lifetime of smiles.”