What to know about baby teeth

Did you know that, even before birth, baby teeth — or primary teeth — are developing beneath the gumline? It’s true! The basic substance of the tooth forms at about six weeks of pregnancy. By three to four months of pregnancy, the hard tissue that surrounds the teeth is developed. Before even entering the world, all 20 baby teeth will be almost fully formed under the gumline. And by the age 3, a child should have most of their baby teeth fully emerged in their mouth.

Each tooth is composed of four main parts:

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    Enamel: the harder outer layer

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    Dentin: the inner main part

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    Pulp: contains nerves and blood supply

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    Root: anchoring the tooth into the jaw

All four parts play a significant role in a child’s oral health.

Teeth development timeline: 

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    0 years: Baby's teeth develop below the gumline.

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    3 years: Most teeth have appeared.

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    6 years: As children grow, they’ll start losing baby teeth.

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    12 years: Usually when all of a child’s permanent teeth will be in place, except wisdom teeth.

Here are five essential steps to keep a child’s smile healthy:

1. Healthy prenatal nutrition

Because tooth development begins in the womb, a mother’s nutrition during pregnancy is important in the development of the baby’s teeth. Expecting mothers should do their best to get essential vitamins and calcium every day.

2. Clean gums before teeth emerge

Before those first primary teeth even pop up, gently wipe your baby's gums with a soft, damp cloth after feedings. Not only does this keep gums clean and bacteria free, but it also introduces babies to an oral care routine.

3. Start brushing when the first tooth appears

As soon as the first baby tooth emerges, it’s time to begin brushing with a toothbrush and a grain of rice-sized smear of fluoride toothpaste. Upgrade to a pea-sized dollop when a child turns 3. And don’t forget to floss once those teeth start getting cozy next to each other.

4. First dentist visit by age 1

Children should have their first dentist visit within six months of getting their first tooth and no later than their first birthday. This early checkup helps prevent cavities, monitors a child’s development and bite, and allows them to get comfortable with dental appointments.

5. Teach healthy eating habits

As soon as a child can start having solid foods, it's important that they eat a well-balanced diet. This is important to keeping teeth — even baby teeth — healthy. Also, make sure to limit sugary snacks and drinks. For instance, make sure to avoid giving children sugary drinks in their bottle or sippy cup — this includes milk, too — during a nap or bedtime.

Don’t be persuaded by the assumption that baby teeth do not matter. Instead, lay the foundation for a lifetime of healthy smiles by taking proper care of baby teeth — even if they are temporary.

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