Baby Teething Age

Teething Ages and Stages

Babies are actually born with all 20 of their baby teeth already in their jaw line.  Just below the gum margins, those little pearlers are waiting to erupt. This fact is contrary to common belief, that the teeth don’t start evolving until the few short months before they emerge. 

Even when in utero, your baby’s teeth were already forming from around six week’s gestation. They’ve been sitting waiting for a long time.

Baby teeth are also known as milk teeth, primary teeth and deciduous teeth. Whatever you call them, understand that they are precious and worth looking after.

What Age Do Babies Start Teething? 

Most babies start to teethe at around six months of age.  By approximately three years of age, all 20 teeth have generally made an appearance.

Like all other stages of development, individual traits play an important role in when to expect teeth to erupt. But as a rule, teething follows a fairly predictable pattern of eruption.

Small age variations are common, though it’s reasonable for parents to feel a little confident about which teeth to expect at what age.  

Babies Are Born With These Teeth Below Their Gums

  • 4 central incisors
  • 4 lateral incisors
  • 4 canine teeth
  • 4 first molars
  • 4 second molars

Every Tooth Has a Specific Purpose 

  • The front teeth or incisors at the front of the mouth have a sharp biting edge. Incisors are used for cutting and shearing food into more easily chewable pieces. Four central and four lateral incisors erupt for babies – generally the lower central incisors are the first to appear.
  • The canines sit at the sides or corners of the mouth and have a sharp, pointed surface. This helps with gripping and tearing food. Four canine teeth erupt with primary (first) dentition. Some people know the canines as ‘fangs’. 
  • The molars are the largest of all of the teeth. They have a large flat biting surface which is designed to chew, crush and grind food so it’s soft and safe to swallow. There are eight molars in primary dentition.

How Will I Know When My Baby’s Teething?

Some babies fuss a lot when they’re teething and others don’t seem bothered by it at all.  There’s a big variation in teething behaviour. 

What Are Some Teething Signs?

Your baby may have some or all of these symptoms:

  • Drooling or dribbling
  • A bit more crying and feeling unsettled
  • Eating and sleeping changes
  • Wanting to suck and chew more than usual
  • Loose bowel motions which may contain mucous
  • Red cheeks
  • Pulling at ears
  • Nappy rash

Why Are My Baby’s Teeth Jagged?

Every tooth develops from separate lobes, each forming a different part of the tooth. Under the gums, these lobes eventually grow together.  As the tooth erupts from the gums it can have a serrated or ‘postage stamp’ edge where the lobes have came together. These are called mamelons and are a sign that the right, left and middle lobes have joined.

Some people believe mamelons help baby teeth to cut through the gums. Eventually the mamelons are ground down to a smooth and even surface. Eating, chewing, biting down as well as how the baby’s teeth sit alongside each other, all help to wear down the serrations. 

But They’re Only Baby Teeth!

Baby teeth play an important role in being able to chew food easily.  Quite apart from eating, one of their most valuable roles is to be place holders for when the permanent teeth come through.

Without the baby teeth minding the correct position for the secondary teeth, there is a risk of misalignment or tooth crowding. The permanent teeth don’t have a template for where they should emerge and instead, overcrowding happens. This is a problem for eating and also causes excessive wear for the teeth.  This means uneven wear and tear as individual teeth need to do work they’re not designed for.

Baby teeth also help children to pronounce words properly.  Lisps and incorrect pronunciation are common when the tongue doesn’t sit in the right position.  Sounds can’t form correctly because the tongue, teeth and gums aren’t in their correct relationship to control air movement.  

Cleaning Your Baby’s Teeth

If you can see a tooth, then it needs cleaning. Removing plaque helps to prevent against infection, cavities (holes) and pain. Decayed baby teeth can also damage permanent teeth.

Use a soft cloth to wipe over your baby’s teeth or, a very soft bristled toothbrush.  You don’t need to use toothpaste until around 18 months of age.

Facts About Teething Ages and Stages

  • A child’s jaw continues to grow so it is large enough to accommodate 32 permanent, much bigger teeth.
  • The outer enamel covering of baby teeth is not as thick as in the adult teeth. This thinner enamel makes the baby teeth look whiter, but it also means baby teeth are at more risk of decay.
  • Baby teeth have a different root structure to adult teeth. This allows the roots to dissolve as the adult teeth grow underneath them.
  • Baby teeth are very small and often look uneven. Gaps are common but not an indication that the permanent teeth will have gaps.
  • Sometimes white or yellow patches have formed on baby teeth. This can be related to maternal fever or viral illness during pregnancy.

Five Important Facts About Teething

  1. Babies have 20 primary teeth
  2. The first teeth to erupt are generally the lower central incisors
  3. Most babies have all their primary teeth by around 3 years of age
  4. The first secondary or permanent teeth to erupt are the molars
  5. Permanent teeth push the baby teeth out

Make an appointment with your child health nurse for more information about your baby’s teething. Also speak with your dentist for specific information about your baby’s teething ages and stages.