It's exciting when your child gets their first baby teeth, but at the same time, you might have a lot of questions. What order do they come in? How many teeth does a child have? When will baby's first tooth appear? And at what age do they fall out to make way for permanent teeth?
In this article, we'll answer all these questions, and more, so you can be fully prepared for the appearance of your child's deciduous teeth. You'll also be equipped to take good care of them until they fall out, and set your child up with good oral hygiene habits that will hopefully last a lifetime.
Table of contents
- 1 When do babies get teeth?
- 2 How many teeth do kids have?
- 3 Baby teeth order
- 4 When do baby teeth fall out?
- 5 Problems that may occur
- 6 Brushing guide
- 7 When to take baby to the dentist
- 8 Conclusion
When do babies get teeth?
Are babies born with teeth, or do they come in later? Baby's first tooth typically appears between the ages of 6 and 10 months. However, it can be much earlier or later. Occasionally, babies are born with them; while others remain toothless until their first birthday.
You'll probably know when your baby's first tooth is about to erupt, because they'll display some of these common teething symptoms:
- Chewing on fingers/toys
- Redness or a rash around the mouth, chin and neck
- Irritability and crying
- Waking more often at night
- Ear pulling
- Fussy eating
This can happen every time there are baby teeth coming in, so you'll want to be prepared with some ways to relieve pain from teething.
Most children have their full set by age three. You can see full details of when babies get their teeth in the chart a little further down. These are also called ‘deciduous teeth' (because they fall out) and ‘primary teeth'.
Normally the first tooth erupts between ages 6 to 12 months. Gums are sore, tender and sometimes irritable until the age of 3. Rubbing sore gums gently with a clean finger, the back of a cold spoon or a cold, wet cloth helps soothe the gums. Teething rings work well, but avoid teething biscuits—they contain sugar that is not good for baby teeth.
While your baby is teething, it is important to monitor the teeth for signs of baby bottle decay. Examine the teeth, especially on the inside or the tongue side, every two weeks for dull spots (whiter than the tooth surface) or lines. A bottle containing anything other than water and left in an infant’s mouth while sleeping can cause decay.
Dr. Angela Evanson, Angela Evanson DDS
How many teeth do kids have?
So how many teeth do children have anyways? They have 20 in total, with each jaw having:
- 4 lateral and central incisors (in the front for biting)
- 2 canines (pointy for biting)
- 4 molars (in the back for chewing)
Around 1% of children are born missing one or more of their primary teeth, a condition called hypodontia. They can also have extra teeth, which is known as hyperdontia. Both of these conditions are more likely to affect permanent teeth than deciduous teeth, though.
Baby teeth order
The first teeth to come in are the lateral or central incisors, which are for biting. Sometime after baby's first birthday, their first molars will appear, enabling them to chew food better. Then the canines come through, and finally, the second molars complete the set. You'll notice that this order means that they will have a small gap for a while between the second and fourth teeth, so don't be alarmed!
Each pair (on the left and right) should appear at about the same time, but the upper and lower can be a month or two apart.
Baby tooth chart
Check this chart to see what order baby teeth come in, how many baby teeth there are, at what age they usually appear, and then when they fall out.
Note that these are average ages and it's usually not a cause for concern if a child's teeth appear outside these ranges, or even in a different order. However, we recommend you consult a dentist if you're concerned about when your baby's teeth are coming in.
When do baby teeth fall out?
You can see from the chart above that the first teeth fall out around 6 months of age, making way for the permanent teeth. Deciduous teeth should fall out in more or less the same order as they came in, meaning the molars are the last to go by age 12.
If your child's baby teeth came in particularly early or late, they are likely to follow the same pattern when they fall out.
Problems that may occur
You want your kid's teeth to be strong and healthy, so you're bound to pick up on anything that seems out of the ordinary. Some things might be nothing to worry about, but others might require dental treatment, so we recommend speaking to a dentist about any concerns.
Here's a run-down of some of the most common milk tooth problems that you might want to know about:
Baby teeth coming in late
The chart above gives the average timeline for baby teeth coming in, but every child is different. They can erupt earlier or later than this.
If your child's baby teeth are coming in late compared to this, it's probably nothing to worry about, but you can mention it to their dentist if you're concerned. The main problem is likely to be the frustration (for you and your baby) of being limited to softer foods for longer!
White spots on baby teeth
White spots along the gumline can be one of the first signs of tooth decay. If left untreated, the decay will turn brown then black and will need to be removed and filled. Fortunately, if you spot it at this early stage, it's possible to reverse the damage. Your dentist might clean your kid's teeth properly, apply fluoride varnish, and help you improve their daily teeth cleaning routine.
If the white marks are caused by dental fluorosis – which occurs when too much fluoride is consumed while the teeth are developing – they aren't reversible. However, there are measures you may be able to take to avoid any further damage to ones that haven't erupted yet, if high fluoride intake is still a risk.
If you notice white marks or any other discoloration, take them for a checkup ASAP. Whatever is causing the problem, your dentist can diagnose it and advise you on the best treatment or preventative action.
Baby grinding teeth
Teeth grinding in children is quite common, especially at night, but it should stop by the time all their teeth have come through. It can be a response to teething pain, but it might also be linked to stress or hyperactivity.
Mention it to your dentist if any of the following accompany the grinding:
- Waking with a sore face or jaw
- Waking frequently because of the grinding
- Signs of wear
- Anything else that concerns you
Baby teeth gaps
It's normal for the fourth tooth to appear before the third, so most babies have a gap between the second and fourth teeth for a little while.
But what about gaps after they have all erupted? Gaps are quite normal, especially between the top front teeth, and you might notice them more as your child's jaw expands.
In the meantime, make sure you pay special attention when brushing as it's easy for food to get stuck in small gaps.
Don't be too concerned if the first of your baby's teeth are not perfectly straight. They may correct themselves over time, and even if they don't, crooked baby teeth don't necessarily mean crooked permanent teeth.
Losing baby teeth early
Primary teeth serve an important purpose in keeping space free for the teeth growing below them. Losing baby teeth early can be a problem, therefore, because the other teeth may shift position and cause the adult teeth to grow in crooked. Baby teeth also help with proper speech development.
Sadly, child tooth decay is still a big problem in the US, in fact 1 in 5 children ages 5 to 11 have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
Another reason for losing baby teeth early is trauma; accidents can happen at any time and cause a tooth to be knocked out or damaged beyond repair.
Although less common, there are some medical conditions that can cause them to fall out early. If your child loses a tooth before age 4, not because of trauma or decay, then you should take them to the dentist.
When a tooth is lost early, whatever the reason, the dentist may decide to insert a space maintainer. This is a small device made from acrylic or metal that stops the two neighboring teeth from moving into the gap left by the missing tooth. This reduces the chances of alignment problems later on.
This happens with prolonged use of a pacifier and can result in teeth that are crooked or crowded, or even problems with jaw alignment. Make sure you follow the guidelines for pacifier use which you can find in our pacifier teeth article.
When to start brushing
If you're wondering when to start brushing baby's teeth, the answer is simple: as soon as the first tooth appears. In fact, you can even begin brushing their gums with a silicone finger toothbrush before their first tooth erupts. This gets them used to the feeling so they are less likely to resist when you need to brush.
Make sure your baby's toothbrush has a small head and super soft bristles. To find out more about the best toothbrush for your baby or child, read our separate guide which has plenty of product recommendations and reviews.
You should use a fluoride toothpaste to help protect your child's baby teeth from decay, but only use a smear (about the size of a grain of rice) for children up to age 3, and a pea-sized amount thereafter. Using more than the recommended amount increases the chances of them developing fluorosis if they swallow the toothpaste. Our children's toothpaste guide has more about how to choose the right product for your baby or child.
How to brush baby teeth
Equipped with a suitable toothbrush and toothpaste, you're ready to get brushing. Here's how:
- Brush them twice a day: once before bedtime and at one other time during the day.
- Use small circular motions to brush all the surfaces of each tooth.
- Make sure they spit out any excess toothpaste, rather than swallowing it.
- Don't rinse with water afterward, as this washes off some of the fluoride in the toothpaste.
- By the time your child has all their teeth, you should be brushing for 2 minutes each time.
- Continue to help until they are old enough to brush their teeth properly, usually around age 7.
Your baby might not like the feeling at first, and may resist by turning away, closing their lips, or biting the toothbrush. Let them watch you brushing yours, and try singing a song or turning it into a game to make it more fun for them. Don't worry if you aren't able to follow this full routine at first, but keep trying until your baby is used to having their teeth brushed.
Brushing your baby's teeth is only part of the picture when it comes to keeping them in good condition. You should also limit your child's sugar intake to minimize plaque buildup. Our complete guide to children's oral health has more information on how to prevent tooth decay and keep both deciduous and permanent teeth healthy.
Watch the video below for more tips when it comes to caring for little teeth:
When to take baby to the dentist
Children should attend their first dental checkup after the first tooth appears but no later than their first birthday, according to the American Dental Association. Even if they have just one tooth showing, the dentist will check their teeth and gums and will be able to answer any questions you have. At some point, your dentist may recommend applying fluoride varnish to add an extra layer of protection.
Children who visit the dentist on Medicaid or CHIP will receive free checkups and treatment, so if your child is eligible, make sure you take advantage of this.
Keep taking your child for regular dental checkups, as advised by their dentist, even if you think their teeth are healthy. It's good for them to get used to dental visits so they don't mind going when they're older. Plus, if there are any potential problems, the dentist will be able to spot and treat them early on – much better than waiting until they become a real issue for your child.
Deciduous teeth play an important part in your child's development, and you have a big part to play in keeping them healthy. We hope this article has answered all your questions about baby teeth order, how many teeth to expect, and when they appear.
You've also read about how to brush your child's teeth, although putting it into practice can be tricky. Keep persevering, because without proper brushing, decay can develop. If you're concerned about anything relating to your child's oral health, take them for a dental checkup. It may be nothing serious, but better safe than sorry when it comes to dental health.