We don’t often talk about baby teeth - but they are important! Wondering what the normal age is for baby’s first tooth? What about when to make baby’s first dentist appointment? Should you be brushing your baby’s teeth? Here’s what you need to know!
The information in this post came from the conversation I had with Dr. Trish Brady on my podcast Bringing Up Baby. She is a Dentist at Spring Garden Dentistry in Halifax NS. Following dental school Dr. Brady practiced her first year of dentistry in London, ON. During this time she was fortunate enough to work both in a hospital setting as well as in private practice. Her time in the hospital gave her extra training in oral surgery and pediatric dentistry.
What Age Is Normal For Baby’s First Tooth?
As with most milestones, there is a range for what is considered normal, however in general you will see the first tooth around 6 months of age.
It is possible for your baby to be born with teeth already coming through, and it is possible that your baby could be a year old before they cut their first tooth!
The lower incisor teeth are usually the first ones to come through.
When Should The First Dentist Appointment Be?
Once you see that first tooth come in, you might be wondering when you should be making a dentist appointment.
Ideally they should have their first appointment within 6 months of the eruption of their first tooth. The latest you should wait to see a dentist is by their first birthday, even if your one year old doesn’t have a tooth yet, make the appointment!
What Happens At The First Dentist Appointment?
At your baby’s first dentist appointment, there’s not typically a lot of dental care happening. The dentist will do an assessment, screen for any issues, and make any necessary referrals.
For the most part, the appointment will center around parent education, chatting about oral hygiene, fluoride and diet/snacking habits.
Causes of Cavities In Kids & How To Prevent Them
What you feed your baby and how you feed them can impact their tooth health. Let's dive into tooth decay aka cavities, and how to prevent them.
When kids start to eat solid foods, the chance of tooth decay increases. Cavities are caused by bacteria in the mouth that feed on food particles, which then create acid. This acid eats away at the tooth’s enamel causing holes and decay.
Having constant access to food or sugary drinks like juice or milk can also increase the chance of tooth decay. If your child is snacking, so are the bacteria in their mouth. When you eat, acid is produced for approximately 30 minutes. This means that acid is being produced all throughout the day, which can increase the risk of cavities.
Going To Bed With A Bottle
Putting your baby to bed with a bottle (breastmilk or formula) can also increase the risk of tooth decay. If they are falling asleep they may not swallow all of the milk in their mouth, which can then sit on their teeth for a long period of time.
Breastmilk itself doesn’t cause cavities, but combined with any food particles left behind, it can still cause a problem.
A quick feed before they sleep isn’t usually a problem, since they are swallowing. It is a complex issue, and shouldn’t deter you from feeding overnight, it’s just something to keep in mind.
How Genetics Play A Role
Genetics play a big role in dental decay. Some people have naturally “soft” teeth that are more prone to cavities. The flora in your mouth is also passed down in families, which can be a determining factor in your dental health.
Oral hygiene and diet also plays a big role as well, so good oral health habits are still important. Oral hygiene habits can be learned as they grow, so set a good example!
Should You Use Fluoridated Toothpaste?
When those first teeth appear, you’ll want to start taking care of them. You will have a choice between fluoridated and non-fluoridated toothpaste.
First I will say that it is a personal choice and the recommendations have changed throughout the years.
Fluoride helps to restore the tooth enamel that may be damaged by acid caused by the bacteria in your mouth. It also helps to stop the growth of harmful bacteria and further prevent cavities, but it can’t reverse tooth decay.
However, too much fluoride can lead to dental fluorosis, which can change the appearance of their teeth. It can also lead to fluoride toxicity which can be dangerous.
If you choose to use fluoridated toothpaste, buy one that is made for children, as it will have a lower concentration and use a very small amount, like the size of a grain of rice until about age two, when you can increase that to a pea sized amount.
If you choose non-fluoridated toothpaste, you are still getting the mechanical benefit of brushing to remove food and plaque off the teeth.
If you have more questions, chat with your dentist!
How A Soother & Thumb Sucking Can Affect Their Teeth
A lot of babies use soothers or suck their thumbs, which can be a great way to help soothe them, however it can cause changes in their jaw and teeth.
As young babies, using a soother is fine and doesn’t cause any irreparable damage, but continued use of a soother or thumb sucking can cause the upper teeth to move up and out, and the lower teeth move down and back.
The Canadian Dental Association recommends discontinuing use of a soother by age 5 to avoid misalignment of the teeth and jaw.
Read more about helping your child move on from thumb sucking.
Baby Teeth Are Important!
Just because baby teeth eventually fall out, doesn’t mean they aren’t important.
If baby teeth are lost prematurely (either from trauma like falling off the jungle gym, or because they are infected and need to be removed by a dentist) there is a chance that their teeth will shift, and cause their adult teeth to not erupt in a normal functioning pattern, which can lead to invasive orthodontics down the road.
Take care of those baby teeth by seeing a dentist within 6 months of their first tooth, and practicing good oral hygiene.
Ashley Cooley is a birth, baby and sleep specialist living in Dartmouth, NS with her husband and their three girls.