Although a baby’s first tooth pokes through in the first year of life, the development of your baby’s teeth actually starts in the womb. Teeth continue to grow and develop until all of the baby teeth have been lost and the adult teeth are in their place. Even though your child won’t have his set of baby teeth forever, it’s still important to know how they develop, how to care for them, and how to help the process be as painless as possible.

How do baby teeth develop?

While your baby is still in utero, the teeth begin to form under the surface of his soft gums. These teeth are actually sitting on top of the adult teeth that will eventually make up his smile. As a result, these baby teeth are much shorter than the adult teeth that will come in later.

When will we see the teeth poke through?

Baby teeth have a typical order of emergence, although this can change with each child. Usually, the top front two teeth, followed by the bottom front two teeth, are the first to come in. Over the next several months, your child will get new baby teeth that emerge regularly. The best way to ease this process is to provide your baby with something safe to chew on, like a teething toy or a cold washcloth. This will help your baby with teething and also ease the pain. You can also ask your baby’s doctor about the use of over-the-counter teething gels or creams that help with gum pain.

How do I care for my baby’s teeth?

At such a young age, your baby is not yet ready for toothpaste. You can clean his teeth with a warm cloth or a finger brush. You can also introduce a small amount of toothpaste when he is around two years old. Consider taking him to see a pediatric dentist around this time as well. This will help him get accustomed to visiting the dentist regularly (every six months is recommend), and will therefore encourage good dental health for the rest of his childhood.

Although your baby’s teeth are temporary placeholders for his adult set, the childhood years are the best time to introduce good dental habits and routines.