Caring for Your Baby's First Tooth

Smiling baby girl
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The timing of when your baby's first tooth comes in can vary quite a bit. When your baby becomes a little fussy, drooling often and wanting to chew on things, your little one might be teething. But while those behaviors can be signs and symptoms of teething, they can very often occur without teething at around three to four months.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), "By age three or four months, infants are drooling and chewing on the things they put into their mouths. This is how they learn about the world around them."

First-time parents might also be fooled if they see tiny white or whitish-yellow dots on their baby's gums. Often mistaken for the first tooth, these are often instead gingival cysts. They can occur on the roof of an infant's mouth, where they are called Epstein's Pearls, and on the gums, where they are called Bohn's nodules. They eventually go away without treatment.

Baby's First Tooth

The average age for the first baby tooth is six months, but some infants don't get their first tooth until they are 14 or 15 months old. Others can begin teething and get an early baby tooth at three months old.

Some babies can even be born with a tooth, called a natal tooth. These teeth often have to be removed, because they can interfere with feeding and the development of healthy teeth and gums.

When the teeth are ready to erupt, the lower, middle two teeth (central incisors) usually come in first, followed by the upper, middle two teeth. Some babies, however, don't follow this typical order or pattern and their teeth may come in randomly.

The timing of teething runs in the family. So if you or your parents teethed earlier or later, your own baby is likely to follow suit.

After the lower and upper middle two teeth, the lateral incisors, canine teeth, first, and then second molars all follow. Ultimately, your baby will get all 20 baby teeth (also called primary teeth) by the time they are about two to three years old.

You can then expect your child to start to lose their first baby tooth when they are about six years old. They will quickly start to get the first of their 32 permanent teeth at about the same time, although the last of the permanent teeth (the wisdom teeth) may not erupt until the high-school years.

Care for Baby Teeth

While you should be wiping your baby's gums even before they get their first tooth, you can start to brush their teeth with a smear of fluoride toothpaste once the teeth erupt. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends the first visit to a pediatric dentist within six months of getting the first tooth, or by the time your baby is 12 months old.

Proper oral hygiene translates to reduced risk for cavities, infection, or other oral health problems. These can make the normal challenges of teething progress that much more painfully, which will be uncomfortable for both your baby and you.

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