Pediatric dentistry

How Do Baby Teeth Grow

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Your baby’s first teeth begin to form prior to birth. According to the American Dental Association, what you eat during your pregnancy affects the development of your unborn child’s teeth. Tooth development begins between the third and sixth months of pregnancy. For this reason, you should eat a well-balanced diet that includes adequate amounts of calcium and phosphorous, protein and vitamins A, C and D. These are the nutrients needed for the fetus to develop healthy teeth. Although tooth enamel begins to form intrauterine, the enamel does not complete hardening until several months after birth.

Tooth Development

First signs of teethingBecause your baby’s teeth form in the jaw, a tooth must grow through bone before pushing through the gum. It’s not uncommon for the area of gum where a tooth is coming through to become red and swollen. This goes away after the tooth comes in. Once your baby’s tooth has erupted through the gum, it takes an average of 18 months for the roots of the tooth to form. The first teeth to come in are usually the two lower middle teeth. These teeth generally come in when a baby is about 6 months old. However, some babies get their first tooth when they are as young as 3 months. Because teething age varies, other children may not get that first tooth until they are 18 months old. Heredity plays a key role. The age at which your baby starts teething may depends on how old you, his parents, were when you got your first teeth. Children get 20 primary teeth in all. Most have come in by the time a child is 4. Even so, the time frame and order in which the teeth come in can differ.

Positioning of Teeth

Maintaining the health of your child’s primary teeth is necessary for permanent teeth to develop healthy. The lips, gums and cheeks affect how teeth are positioned and spaced. Proper alignment of primary teeth generally leads to permanent teeth lining up correctly in the mouth. Although the tongue pushes outward on the teeth, the lips and cheeks provide an inward balance. Primary teeth hold the space for the permanent teeth so that they come in correctly positioned. Primary teeth also help the upper and lower jawbones and muscles to develop normally.

Child’s teething timeline

The following chart shows when your child’s primary teeth (also called baby teeth or deciduous teeth) should erupt and shed. Eruption times vary from child to child.

Primary Teeth Development Chart

Primary Teeth Development Chart

As seen from the chart, the first teeth begin to break through the gums at about 6 months of age. Usually, the first two teeth to erupt are the two bottom central incisors (the two bottom front teeth). Next, the top four front teeth emerge. After that, other teeth slowly begin to fill in, usually in pairs – one each side of the upper or lower jaw – until all 20 teeth (10 in the upper jaw and 10 in the lower jaw) have come in by the time the child is 2 ½ to 3 years old. The complete set of primary teeth is in the mouth from the age of 2 ½ to 3 years of age to 6 to 7 years of age.

Other primary tooth eruption facts:

  • A general rule of thumb is that for every 6 months of life, approximately 4 teeth will erupt.
  • Girls generally precede boys in tooth eruption.
  • Lower teeth usually erupt before upper teeth.
  • Teeth in both jaws usually erupt in pairs — one on the right and one on the left.
  • Primary teeth are smaller in size and whiter in color than the permanent teeth that will follow.
  • By the time a child is 2 to 3 years of age, all primary teeth should have erupted.

Shortly after age 4, the jaw and facial bones of the child begin to grow, creating spaces between the primary teeth. This is a perfectly natural growth process that provides the necessary space for the larger permanent teeth to emerge. Between the ages of 6 and 12, a mixture of both primary teeth and permanent teeth reside in the mouth.

The Teething Process

While teething can begin as early as 3 months, most likely you’ll see the first tooth start pushing through your baby’s gum line when your little one is between 4 and 7 months old.

The first teeth to appear usually are the two bottom front teeth, also known as the central incisors. They’re usually followed 4 to 8 weeks later by the four front upper teeth (central and lateral incisors). About a month later, the lower lateral incisors (the two teeth flanking the bottom front teeth) will appear.

Next to break through are the first molars (the back teeth used for grinding food), then finally the eyeteeth (the pointy teeth in the upper jaw). Most kids have all 20 of their primary teeth by their third birthday. (If your child’s teeth come in much slower than this, speak to your doctor.)

In some rare cases, kids are born with one or two teeth or have a tooth emerge within the first few weeks of life. Unless the teeth interfere with feeding or are loose enough to pose a choking risk, this is usually not a cause for concern.

As kids begin teething, they might drool more and want to chew on things. For some babies, teething is painless. Others may have brief periods of irritability, while some may seem cranky for weeks, with crying spells and disrupted sleeping and eating patterns. Teething can be uncomfortable, but if your baby seems very fussy, talk to your doctor.

Although tender and swollen gums could cause your baby’s temperature to be a little higher than normal, teething doesn’t usually cause high fever or diarrhea. If your baby does develop a fever during the teething phase, something else is probably causing the fever and you should contact your doctor.

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