The eruption of baby teeth is part of your child’s normal development. In fact, by the time your baby is 3 years old they’ll have 20 teeth! Needless to say, they will get most of their primary (“baby”) teeth during the first couple years of life.
Typically, a baby is born with “buds” on the gums. These are areas in which these 20 teeth will eventually erupt and develop. However, there are some cases in which this process doesn’t go as planned. It’s possible that your baby’s teeth don’t erupt in the right order, or maybe you notice a significant delay.
Once you know what to look for, it’s important to contact your pediatrician or pediatric dentist if you have any concerns.
There are five different types of teeth your baby will develop during the first three years. The order your baby gets their teeth is as follows.
- central incisors (front teeth)
- lateral incisors (between the central incisors and canines)
- first molars
- canines (beside the front molars)
- second molars
Generally, babies get their bottom front teeth (central incisors) first. Sometimes teeth erupt slightly out of order. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), this is usually not a cause for concern.
When it comes to teething, every baby is different. Some babies might teethe as early as 4 to 7 months, while others get their first teeth closer to 9 months, or sometimes not until after they turn 1 year old. Occasionally, a baby may be born with one or more teeth. Genetics can play a large role. If you or your partner got your baby teeth early, chances are that your child will.
Despite differences in eruptions, there is a general timeline to keep in mind. Your baby will get their lower teeth in each category first before teeth of a different category on the same gum line. The following timeline indicates approximately when most babies get their primary teeth.
|bottom central incisors
|top central incisors
|top lateral incisors
|bottom lateral incisors
|first molars in top of mouth
|first molars on bottom
|second molars on bottom of mouth
|second molars on top
One way to keep track of tooth eruptions is to look for new teeth every four months after your baby first starts getting them. For example, if the bottom central incisors come in at 6 months, then you should expect to see the top incisors come in about four months later.
Perhaps more important than the precise order your baby’s teeth come in are spacing and disease prevention. Since baby teeth are smaller than permanent teeth, there should be plenty of space between them to allow for room in the future. Children tend to get their permanent teeth at around 6 years of age, starting with the bottom central incisors. If you are concerned that your baby’s teeth are coming in too close together, you should discuss this with a pediatric dentist.
Another issue is tooth decay. Unfortunately, baby teeth are at a higher risk of decay. This can lead to complications, such as:
- early tooth loss
- cellulitis (infection that occurs and spreads underneath the skin)
- gingivitis (gum disease)
- yellow or brown spots on teeth
- feeding difficulties
- poor self-esteem
Teething problems tend to occur most often in babies born prematurely, as well as those who don’t have adequate healthcare access. The AAP recommends contacting a dentist if your baby hasn’t experienced any tooth eruptions by 18 months of age. All babies should start seeing a dentist soon after their 1st birthday.
Your baby’s primary teeth will eventually be replaced by permanent (“adult”) teeth, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the state of their baby teeth. Making sure your child’s teeth come in correctly and develop healthfully can ensure proper oral health in the future.
If something doesn’t look right with your baby’s teeth, it’s best to err on the side of caution and contact a pediatric dentist.