For days your baby cries inconsolably – fussing and fretting her tiny little heart out. Then suddenly, it appears – her first tooth! You sigh with relief. The trauma is over.
Not so fast. There’s 19 more waiting in the wings, hiding just out of sight in your baby’s gums. By the time your baby reaches her first birthday, she’ll probably have all four front teeth, and by the age of three, she’ll have all 20 primary teeth.
Which means you need to get ready for lots of future fussing. The next time your baby seems to be teething, gently rub her gums with a clean finger, cool spoon or wet gauze pad. A clean teething ring might also help comfort her. But if she comes down with a fever, call your doctor. Contrary to popular belief, that’s not normal.
These teeth are not permanent, and will eventually be claimed by the Tooth Fairy as adult teeth push their way in. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this means you don’t have to push good oral health on your baby, though. Tooth decay can begin as soon as the first teeth appear, and if the primary teeth get decayed, her adult teeth will be damaged too.
To prevent this from happening, begin the twice-daily ritual of brushing and flossing as soon as the first teeth appear, and get in to see your dentist before her first birthday. You can also keep these important placeholders healthy by feeding her a balanced diet, and supplying her with healthy snacks from one of the five food groups instead of sugary sweets and candy.
Soon after you cross the milestone of your child’s first day of school, her mouth will begin changing again. It will start with the arrival of her six-year molars when she’s between five and six years old. These are her very first adult teeth, and are very important because they help determine the shape of her lower face. You’ll want to pay special attention to these teeth so they last throughout your child’s lifetime. These molars will be followed by many others over the next 15 years. By the time she’s 21 years old, she’ll have all 32 of her adult teeth.
Out of Line
Sometime between the ages of six and 12, you might notice that your child’s teeth seem crooked, crowded or out of alignment. Her jaw might even appear to be not lining up correctly.
When this happens, it’s called a bad bite (malocclusion), and usually necessitates orthodontic treatment. If you ignore it, hoping she’ll “grow out of it,” she could face several difficulties:
- Difficulty keeping the teeth and gums clean where teeth are crooked or crowded, which can increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
- Interference with the proper development of the jaws.
- Teeth are more easily chipped or fractured.
- Problems with normal speech.
- Teeth are more likely to wear faster than those that are properly aligned.
Since you don’t want her to have to cope with these problems, the best thing to do is have her bite evaluated by your Michigan Dental Association dentist before it becomes an issue. Early examination and treatment by your dentist can help prevent or reduce the severity of malocclusions in the permanent teeth.
Your dentist might recommend orthodontic treatment – either to prevent or to correct a problem before it becomes severe. Although there are many variables that make it impossible to predict how long or how extensive orthodontic treatment will be, one thing’s for sure – it will all go much more smoothly and quickly if your child cooperates. So make sure she understands how important orthodontic treatment is to her future health and appearance.
That’s it. That’s all you need to know about the development of your child’s teeth. But if you have more questions, give your Michigan Dental Association dentist a call. Your dentist will be your best resource and your biggest ally when it comes to keeping your child’s smile beautiful and bright throughout her life.