Your little baby, now about six-months-old refuses to sip on her favourite soup. Instead, she prefers to chew on the spoon.  Well, in a likelihood, she is about to get a new set of teeth.

Quick facts

The baby teeth, also called the primary teeth, usually begin to appear when the baby is approximately six-months-old. Then again, studies have shown that teething could begin anytime between three months to a year.

The first set to appear are the lower incisors followed by the upper ones, then come the lower and upper molars, and finally the canines, lower first, then upper. Altogether there are 20 primary teeth, 10 in each jaw. When the baby is born, these are already in various stages of formation inside the jaws.

Baby teeth and the baby

While most babies are not affected by the eruption of teeth, some of them are rather uncomfortable during this phase.

In such situation, you could your baby food items that can be gnawed on, like a carrot stick. A soft teething ring can also be used for her to chew on. A light massage of the gums would also help pacify her.

You needn't worry if your child has a low-grade fever and loose stools. Usually, no medication is required. Yuu could consult a pediatrician if the issue persists. This process is like to last for a period of three or six days.

Natal and neonatal teeth

There are a few rare cases wherein a baby may be born with a tooth already present in the jaw (more likely, the lower jaw) or a tooth that may erupt in the first 30 days. These are called natal and neonatal teeth, respectively.

In such instances, a pediatrician or a pedodontist (a dentist who specializes in child dentistry) could assess the teeth.

The following aspects must be looked into:

  • The shakiness or firmness of the tooth
  • Whether it belongs to the primary set or is an extra tooth
  • Is it causing any discomfort for the baby or mother while breastfeeding
  • Is it necessary to maintain it in the jaw?

If the dentist states that the teeth could be maintained, it should be so. If it has to be removed, then it is best to do so 10- 20 days after the baby's birth. This is to ensure that the baby starts to produce all the necessary enzymes and hormones for blood clotting.

Take care of the primary set of teeth

Many parents and elders tempt the child with sweets. They often say, “So what if one tooth is infected? These are baby teeth; the next ones will be out soon.” This isn't true.

Primary teeth are not only meant for chewing but for various other purposes as well.

Maintaining healthy and strong primaries are vital because these teeth provide a route map for the permanent teeth that follow them.

Each primary tooth helps maintain a fixed space for the succeeding tooth. The primary first molar, for example, has a width similar to the premolar that will replace it at about 10 years. Maintaining this baby molar will ensure that the premolar comes into its rightful place in the jaw. If the primary molar is lost at an earlier stage due to a tooth decay, it could affect the arrangement of the permanent teeth in the jaw.

Things to remember

If you do spot some amount of discoloration or pigmentation on the surfaces of all the teeth, consult the pedodontist.

A firm structure requires a perfect foundation.

(The author is a dentist based out of Kochi, Kerala)