Your Children’s Teeth

Just as your child’s first word and first step are important developmental milestones, so, too, is the first tooth. But with that first tooth comes a responsibility for you to make your child’s dental future as healthy as it can be.

Thumb-sucking usually isn’t harmful until the permanent front teeth come in. If you’re worried about your child’s habit, ask your dentist.

Dental Milestones

First tooth

Your child’s first primary (baby) tooth will probably be one of the lower two front teeth (central incisors) and will appear between the ages of 6 and 10 months. Be sure to clean them as soon as they appear. Simply wipe the teeth and gums with gauze or a damp washcloth.

A teething baby may drool, seem fussy, and wake up often at night. Fever, diarrhea, or a rash are not signs of teething; call your family doctor or pediatrician.

First visit to the dentist

The Canadian Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children see a dentist by age 3. “Problems can start at even an earlier age,” says Dr. Franklin Pulver, immediate past president of the academy, “especially if the child is in the habit of taking bottle to bed, which can cause decay.”

First toothbrush

Your dentist will recommend when to begin using a toothbrush on your child’s teeth. Use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste for young children, and make sure they don’t swallow it.

Complete set of primary teeth

Between the ages of 21 months and 3 years, your child will have 10 upper and 10 lower primary teeth.

First permanent tooth

The first permanent tooth is usually one of the six-year molars (teeth used for grinding), so named because they usually appear when children are 6 years old. Because no primary teeth are lost before the six-year molars erupt, you may not notice their appearance. Your dentist may recommend that sealants, plastic coatings that protect teeth against decay, be applied to the biting surfaces of these new teeth.

First orthodontic exam

The Canadian Association of Orthodontists recommends that children have their first orthodontic exam by the age of 7. If your child needs braces, your child’s dentist may wait until most of the permanent teeth are in and jaw growth is complete.

Full set of permanent teeth

When the second molars come in around the age of 13, your child will have a full set of permanent teeth, except for the wisdom teeth.

Wisdom teeth

The wisdom teeth (the third molars located in the back of the mouth) usually erupt between the ages of 17 and 21. These teeth often become impacted – unable to erupt completely-and require extraction.