Those sweet, gummy smiles! I, personally, cannot get enough of them, but at some point, we hope the teeth start to come in. Teeth serve many purposes: they can aid in chewing food, developing the child’s speech, give soft tissue support for an aesthetic profile, direct the permanent teeth in their eruption, and aid in the growth and development of the jaws.
On average, the first tooth comes in around 6 months of age. Conveniently enough, this is the time that babies begin eating solid foods. The typical pattern is the front four teeth on top and bottom come in first, followed by the first molar. Next is the canines (the pointy teeth made popular by Dracula) and lastly, the second molars in the very back. The teeth continue to erupt until the child is 2-3 years old. There is a total of 20 primary (baby) teeth.
I have found that teeth do not always follow the textbooks. Many parents are concerned when teeth are not in by 6 months. Neither one of my babies have gotten teeth before 8 months of age. Some children get their teeth in early, but it is far more likely for teeth to erupt later. Genetics does play a role on eruption timing, so if the teeth are being slow, blame it on your spouse! Children that were born prematurely often have their teeth come in later than children that were born full-term. In many cases, the teeth will come in six months following the mother’s original due date.
Teeth can be termed “delayed” if the child is fifteen months of age and no teeth are visible. At this point, the dentist can attempt to take radiographs (x-rays) to see if teeth are present in the jaws. Blood work can also be completed by the child’s pediatrician to rule out any systemic issues. Most cases are simply delayed, and no treatment is needed to help the teeth erupt. It can be important to involve the child’s pediatrician if there is a suspected hormonal imbalance or an underlying issue affecting the child’s growth and development. But until then, enjoy those sweet, gummy smiles for as long as you can!