A baby’s first tooth is usually a milestone, signaling the healthy growth and development of the little one. But it also marks the beginning of a long and important process that will require careful attention – tooth development.
The first two teeth to erupt are usually the two bottom front teeth (bottom central incisors) at around six months of age, followed by the top four front teeth. By age 2 ½ or 3, all 20 teeth (10 in the upper jaw and 10 in the lower jaw) will have come in. As the child grows, specifically around the age of 4, you may notice that there are spaces between the primary teeth. Rest assured that this is normal and due to the fact that the jaw and facial bones of the child are growing and creating the necessary space for permanent teeth to emerge. Between the ages of 6 and 12, there will be a mix of primary and permanent teeth in a child’s mouth.
Assuming that healthy oral habits are adopted – brushing, flossing, healthy diet – your child’s smile should come in without incident. However, there are some habits that can hinder the healthy development of teeth.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
If a baby’s teeth come into frequent contact with sugars from drinks such as fruit juices (whole or watered-down), formula, or even milk and left to remain without cleaning, bacteria may feed on the sugars, causing tooth decay. To prevent this, give your baby water (or a pacifier) during the day to calm him or her down instead of sugary drinks or milk, as well as when putting your baby to bed. Additionally, wipe down your baby’s teeth and gums with a wet cloth or gauze after each feeding and talk to your dentist about fluoride needs.
Habits That Affect Tooth Development
Thumb sucking is a normal part of a child’s development. They may also suck other fingers, pacifiers, or toys in this act of emotional security and comfort. It’s ok to allow this behavior before teeth start coming in, but if it continues beyond the age of 5 when permanent teeth start to come in, dental problems can occur. Along with tongue thrusting and lip sucking, thumb sucking can cause an overbite, upper and lower jaw misalignment, and cause children to have difficulty with the correct pronunciation of words.
Early Tooth Loss
If teeth are lost before the permanent teeth are ready to come in, it could be caused by tooth decay, injury, or lack of jaw space. Without the baby teeth there, the remaining teeth nearby can tip or shift, leaving no room available for permanent teeth to come in. Your dentist may recommend a space maintainer as a solution if this happens, but if tooth decay is determined as the cause, it should be taken as a sign of poor oral maintenance and better habits should be adopted.