You can’t see them. But they’re there. Baby teeth… they started forming way back in the womb, but before you know it, they’ll be erupting through your baby’s gums.

The first baby teeth, known as primary teeth, usually appear as early as 3-4 months of age, but really start to erupt through the gums between the ages of 6 months to one year of age. The timing of eruption varies (and which ones come out first varies), but all 20 primary teeth (baby teeth) will usually erupt by the age of three.

And those baby teeth are important, even if you can’t see them, and even if they eventually fall out and are replaced with permanent adult teeth. Baby teeth are, in fact, extremely important.

Baby teeth are also just as prone to cavities as adult teeth. In fact, more than 50 percent of children will be affected by tooth decay before age five.* So you want to keep those cavities away to avoid an early loss of a tooth.

When a baby tooth is lost too early, the permanent teeth can drift into the empty space and make it difficult for other adult teeth to find room when it’s their turn to erupt. So, proper oral hygiene is important as soon as your baby is born. Establishing good oral habits early will go a long way, even beyond impressing the tooth fairy!

Baby teeth...

  • Help children chew food easily and properly.

  • Help children speak more quickly and clearly.

  • Hold space in the jaws for permanent teeth that are growing under the gums.

  • Set the stage for a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Tooth decay in infants and toddlers is often called baby bottle tooth decay. It’s also called early childhood caries. Baby bottle tooth decay most often occurs in the upper front teeth, but other teeth may also decay.

The biggest cause of baby bottle tooth decay is when a baby naps or sleeps with a bottle full of milk or juice, or is given a bottle rather than a pacifier for comfort. As the liquid passes out of the nipple into the infant’s mouth, it just sits in the mouth as the baby relaxes, stops sucking, and falls asleep. That means the developing teeth soak in the liquid’s sugar while the baby sleeps. That’s not good for developing teeth.

How to prevent baby bottle tooth decay:

  • Don’t put your child to bed or lay them down for a nap with a bottle of juice or sugary drinks.

  • Put only formula, milk or breast milk in baby bottles; avoid filling bottles with juice or soft drinks.

  • Have your infant finish the bottle before naptime or bedtime.

  • Don’t dip pacifiers in sugar or honey.

  • After each feeding, wipe your child’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth.

  • When your child’s teeth come in, brush them gently with a child-size toothbrush and water.

  • Encourage your child to drink from a cup by their first birthday.

  • Encourage healthy eating habits.

  • Avoid cleaning your child’s feeding spoons or pacifiers by putting them in your mouth; run them under tap water to rinse them off.

  • Schedule your child’s first dental visit as soon as your child’s first tooth appears and no later than your child’s first birthday.