All About Teeth
Although your child will not keep his or her baby (primary) teeth forever that does not mean those baby pearly whites do not need conscientious care. Maintaining your child’s dental health from infancy will provide health benefits into adulthood.
A child’s first primary tooth typically erupts between 6-9 months of age, though in some cases it may erupt as early as at birth or as late as twelve months. The two lower front teeth tend to erupt first followed by the two upper ones (central incisors). Children get total of 20 primary teeth that usually all erupt by age 3. At around age 6, permanent teeth begin to erupt and primary teeth may get loose or exfoliate (fall out). All primary teeth usual exfoliate by age 12. Adults have 28 permanent teeth or 32 including the wisdom teeth (third molars).
Sore gums when teeth erupt are part of the normal eruption process. Gums can be sore and tender until the age of 3. The discomfort can be eased by the use of a teething biscuit, frozen teething ring, or a wet/cold washcloth. We do not recommend the use of homeopathic teething gels or drops due to harmful side effects in some infants.
Importance of an Infant’s Teeth
Primary teeth play a crucial role in dental development. Without them, a child cannot chew food properly and can have a difficulty speaking clearly. Primary teeth are vital to development of the jaws and for guiding the permanent teeth into place. Since primary teeth guide the permanent teeth into place, infants with missing primary teeth or infants who prematurely lose primary teeth due to severe cavities may require a space maintainer, a device used to hold the natural space open. Without a maintainer, the teeth can tilt toward the empty space and cause permanent teeth to come in crooked. The way your child cares for his/her primary teeth plays a critical role in how he/she treats the permanent teeth. Children and adults are equally susceptible to plaque and gum problems—hence, the need for regular care and dental check-ups.
Sucking on a thumb or finger is a completely normal habit that some babies develop even before they are born. It is soothing and also helps babies make contact with and explore their environment. Most babies will grow out of the habit. However ,if the sucking habits continues beyond 3-4 years old, it is possible that bite problems may arise.
In a normal bite, the upper teeth grow to overlap the lower teeth. But it is possible for the pressure of a thumb, finger, or pacifier resting on the gums to interfere with normal tooth eruption and even jaw growth. Some thumb suckers develop an “open bite,” meaning the teeth do not overlap when a child bites together. Instead there is an open space between the upper and lower teeth. An open bite can affect a child’s smile and ability to eat and speak. A pediatric dentist can help monitor your child’s thumb sucking and provide intervention to prevent or reduce bite problems.
By around age 7, crooked/crowed teeth or malocclusions (poor bite) can be evident. Interceptive orthodontic treatment around this time can help direct proper tooth positioning and/or jaw growth, eliminating or simplifying the need for later treatment. There are many orthodontic problems that can be detected early. A pediatric dentist has specialized training in the growth and development of children and can monitor and continually evaluate the proper growth of your child.