Are my child’s teeth growing properly?

Teething is a celebrated milestone in a baby’s life.  The process starts while your baby is still in the womb, where he or she develops tooth buds which become the foundation for those baby teeth.

Baby teeth usually erupt between 4 and 15 months.  If your child does not have a tooth by 18 months, he or she should see a dentist.  Baby teeth are usually thiner and whiter than adult teeth.  By the age of three, children usually have a full set of teeth (20!).  Permanent teeth come in around age 5-7 years and the transition is usually complete by 13-14 years old.

first tooth

Preventing Cavities

Some children are at higher risk than others for getting cavities:

1) those with parents who have cavities,
2) siblings with cavities,
3) premature and lower birth weight children,
4) children who are still using a bottle after 15 months of age, and
5) children who have more than 3 sugary snacks a day.

Some tips to reduce the risk of cavities include

  • Avoiding sugary liquid in bottles (breastmilk, formula, and water only)
  • Avoid bottles at night time or during sleep – this creates a continuous exposure to the sugar (even in milk) and no chance for the teeth to be cleaned
  • Sticky foods promote cavities because the sugar sticks to teeth (e.g. raisins, fruit bars, hard candies)
  • If you have cavities yourself, avoid sharing utensils, and pre-tasting and pre-chewing foods – the bacteria that contributes to cavities is passed on.


We can start cleaning our children’s gums right away.  By the time they get their first tooth, they should brushing with an appropriate sized toothbrush with soft bristles.

Kids can start using fluorinated toothpaste by 2 years of age.  Only a smear is required.  For kids between 2-6 years old, use a pea sized amount.

toothpaste size

The Canadian Dental Society recommends that every child sees a dentist within 6 months of the first tooth eruption or by 1 year of age.  Check out their Dental Care of Children site with information on how to brush and floss your child’s teeth, dental development, why sugary foods are bad for teeth, cavities, what to expect at your child’s first dental visit, fluoride, and pacifier use.

Categories: Ask A Pediatrician, Behaviour and Development, Nutrition, Parenting

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