Baby teeth are a big deal; from the moment they poke through baby’s gums until the first (and last!) tooth fairy visit, baby teeth are something to celebrate—and keep healthy! Here’s why you should care for those baby teeth—and all your other questions about these key parts of your child’s health answered.
When do baby teeth come in?
Baby teeth can start to appear as early as 4 months, but every child is different (some kids don’t get teeth until after their first birthday!). It can take time for the first of 20 baby teeth to appear. Don’t worry if there is a gap between the teeth (after all, they lose 20 baby teeth and gain 32 permanent teeth); this is natural so there is room in the mouth for permanent teeth.
How do you care for baby teeth?
Schedule a dentist appointment for your child at about a year. For the first two years, use a fluoride toothpaste and soft toothbrush, cloth, or a store-bought silicone or rubber pad to clean their teeth. Use a tiny, tiny amount of toothpaste.
Once your child gets older, it’s time to start teaching them to brush their own teeth. Remember, it is possible for kids to get cavities in their baby teeth. In fact, the CDC estimates that 42% of all children between 2-11 years have a cavity in their teeth (here’s what to do if your child is one of them). Make sure you brush their teeth until they get the hang of it. Here are tips to instill proper teeth brushing habits at an early age:
- Make brushing fun! Get toothbrushes (and toothpaste) your kids like. Let them pick out fun toothbrushes that make them want to brush their teeth. To make sure they brush long enough, use these fun videos or download one of these cool apps to make brushing for two minutes fun.
- Brush twice a day as often as possible. Life gets busy, but try to teach your kids a healthy morning and evening routine that includes brushing and flossing (even during summer!).
- Don’t be the only one to stress good teeth brushing. Back up your efforts by asking babysitters, nannies, and relatives who care for your child to stress the importance of brushing and help your kids brush when you are away.
- Brush your teeth. If you brush regularly, and take care to brush, your kids are more likely to follow your lead. Brush with your kids to show them that you do it—and how to do it correctly.
- Talk to your kids about teeth brushing and the dentist. Make a point to talk to your kids about proper oral care and the importance of going to the dentist. Once you schedule a dentist appointment, read books and “practice” going to the dentist at home so your kids know what to expect. If you are afraid of the dentist, use these tips to overcome your fear for both you and your kids’ sake.
Why are baby teeth important?
Many parents think that baby teeth aren’t important; after all, why care for baby teeth if they fall out anyway? However, baby teeth are extremely important to your kids’ long-term oral health. If your child gets a cavity in a baby tooth, the decay can spread to the permanent tooth that is coming in. In addition, if a tooth falls out because of decay, other teeth can get out of alignment as they move and fill in the space left by the baby tooth.
When do kids lose their baby teeth?
Every child is different, but baby teeth usually come out between the ages of 6 and 13. If you want to know how many baby teeth your child has lost (or has to lose), schedule a dentist appointment and ask your dentist.
How can you tell the difference between baby and permanent teeth?
We’re not going to lie to you: it’s not easy to tell the difference between a baby and an adult tooth. In general, baby teeth are more white than permanent teeth. Baby teeth also have shorter roots and the layer of enamel and dentin are thinner. New permanent teeth can look more jagged, but the best way to tell the difference is to ask your dentist. They can tell you whether the tooth is a baby or adult tooth, and answer any other questions you might have about baby teeth.