Baby, Infant health

What you absolutely need to know about your baby’s milk teeth

What you absolutely need to know about your baby's milk teeth

The milk teeth accompany your child through the first ten years of its life. The twenty milk teeth do not all grow at once, but erupt one after the other. Teething is accompanied by fever, infections and bad moods in most children.

When does the tooth come? And when do the first teeth fall out again? You will find answers to these questions in this article.

How are deciduous teeth different from adult teeth?

Before your child gets its adult, permanent teeth, the milk teeth grow. The first twenty teeth are called milk teeth. 10 each are located in the upper and lower jaw.

That means four upper deciduous incisors and four lower deciduous incisors, two upper deciduous canines and two lower deciduous canines and four molars each. The back teeth are called molars.

Baby teeth are smaller and softer than permanent teeth, and they erupt in the same order in most children. But not at all. What should you know about your child’s teeth?

Humans are no different from other mammals in this respect: Your child’s first teeth will come through at the tender age of just a few months. The milk teeth, like the permanent teeth, are already present in the jaw before your child is born.

However, not all baby teeth come through at the same time. They grow one after the other over the course of several years. No sooner have they all erupted than the first milk teeth fall out again. They create space for the permanent teeth. However, it takes a good two decades for the permanent teeth to grow completely.

The permanent teeth accompanies your child for the rest of his life, and it consists of a total of 32 teeth. But that’s not the point here. We explain what you should know about your child’s milk teeth, the order in which the milk teeth break through.

Milk teeth need care: caries is contagious

When you clean your child’s first teeth with a toothbrush, it’s a playful affair. At this age, your child is still mainly fed with milk, either because you breastfeed it with breast milk or with ready-made milk.

For dental care, it is enough for your child to roughly rub off their first teeth once or twice a day with a soft silicone brush. Milk teeth only have a small amount of enamel: it is no more than 1 mm thick.

Later, the enamel is twice as thick. The mineral content of the tooth enamel is also lower in milk teeth than in adult teeth. Due to this thin and sensitive enamel, the deciduous teeth are much more susceptible to caries than the permanent teeth.

Tooth decay is defined as bacteria that do not directly destroy the teeth. The caries bacteria feed on sugar and carbohydrates. When these carbohydrates are digested, the bacteria release acids that attack and gradually destroy tooth enamel.

Tooth enamel normally protects tooth structure. If the enamel is destroyed, these acids attack the tooth itself – small holes appear that are difficult to clean. Caries bacteria are tiny, they sit in the spaces between the teeth, on the affected surfaces and on the edge of the gums.

In other words, wherever the toothbrush cannot reach easily. Because in the places that the toothbrush misses, leftover food collects and with it the carbohydrates on which the bacteria live.

Like any bacterial infection, tooth decay is contagious. If the bacteria have infected one tooth, the others are no longer safe either. Important to know: Caries can spread from the primary teeth to any erupting tooth in the permanent teeth.

Where do the bacteria come from?

Caries bacteria are transmitted from person to person. This is what happens when you drink from the same cup with your child. If you share a toothbrush or if you let your child eat from your fork or spoon, you can also transmit the bacteria.

The infection can even be transmitted via the pacifier: you should never put your child’s pacifier in your child’s mouth to clean it and then give it to your child. Even if you don’t currently have an acute tooth decay infection, the bacteria may live in your mouth and attack your child’s sensitive milk teeth.

For this reason, your child should use their own cutlery from the start, only drink from their own bottle or mug and use their own toothbrush. Make sure that your child does not share their personal belongings with other children, for example among siblings or friends.

In this way you can avoid infection with caries bacteria. Day care centers and childminders usually pay very close attention to compliance with such basic hygiene measures.

The first milk teeth grow at the age of four months

For most children, the first tooth erupts around four to six months of age. Often the lower and upper incisors grow first, but the first tooth breaks through at the bottom and becomes visible.

Then a tooth is added alternately at the top and bottom over the course of several months. The canines then break through when your child is about one and a half years old. The molars only come after that. For many children, the milk dentition is complete by the age of two to three years.

For some children, this may take longer. And of course it also happens that the milk teeth are not complete until the age of four – with some children, one or the other incisor tooth is already wobbling and making room for the permanent teeth.

Even though the majority of children get a bottom incisor first, your child doesn’t have to. The order in which milk teeth erupt and grow is not a law of nature. In fact, to this day we only know from experience at what age the first milk teeth erupt and in what order they usually do so.

So don’t worry if your baby does n’t get his first tooth until he is 8 months old or if the first white spots on the chewing ridge are visible at the age of three and a half months.


The first permanent teeth are often molars

The permanent dentition begins to grow from the age of about six years. In many children (not all), molars break through first, which do not exist in milk teeth. So no milk tooth falls out, but the permanent tooth grows in a place where there was no tooth before.

As a result, many parents do not really notice the change from milk teeth to permanent teeth. But that’s not a law of nature either: other children’s incisors actually wobble and even fall out before the permanent molars grow.

The order in which baby teeth fall out is not fixed and may vary. For many children, the change of teeth is complete by the age of eleven. When all milk teeth have fallen out and been replaced by permanent teeth, permanent molars break through again.

And lastly, the wisdom teeth grow, which often only become visible in adulthood. However, not all people get wisdom teeth. Some of these teeth are missing.

The time of the first tooth eruption, the order in which the milk teeth and permanent teeth erupt and the time of the change of teeth are very different from person to person.

There are usually no health problems associated with your child not following the “usual order” or teething earlier or later than other children. If you are unsure, you should take your child to a pediatrician and/or a pediatric dentist.

Take your child to the dentist from the start

When you go to the dentist, your child doesn’t have to stay with grandma, go to the babysitter or be in daycare. Just take it with you. In every dental practice there is someone who will take care of your child during the treatment. It is important that your child experiences you at the dentist at an early age.

This is how your child sees what happens at the dentist. Children who have been to the dentist with mum or dad (ideally both) since they were babies know the treatment rooms and the staff.

Later you will be relaxed at the dentist and not afraid. The dentist can take a look inside your child’s mouth as soon as the first milk teeth erupt.

Your child usually sits on your lap. Your dentist will be happy to answer your questions about changing teeth. And they will also be happy to explain to you what you should pay attention to when caring for your child’s teeth.

That is what makes teeth healthy

You can do a lot for your child to ensure healthy milk teeth and later healthy permanent teeth. In fact, dental care is important from the start – your child should get used to using the toothbrush as early as possible. However, dentists today also agree that good dental hygiene alone is not enough.

The latest research is that dental care is only responsible for about 30% of dental health. The remaining 70% is attributed to diet. What should a diet for your child look like that guarantees healthy tooth growth from the very first tooth?

Dentists advise against drinks containing sugar and fruit juice. Your child should only drink water and unsweetened tea throughout the day. You can of course give your child a glass of delicious, freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast – but they should not drink any juice spritzers or lemonades in the daycare center or kindergarten.

Because what permanently damages the enamel is the permanent presence of sugar in the mouth. At mealtimes, your child should be given natural foods with no added sugar if they are already eating themselves. Fruit and vegetables as well as (whole grain) cereal products naturally contain sugar and taste sweet. That’s enough, the human body cannot cope with more sugar in the long term and stay healthy.

Hard foods like raw apples and carrots, and nuts are perfectly fine for their teeth as long as your child can chew well. However, you may only give these things when your child is no longer choking on them.

Sweets are not totally banned, but should be limited to once a day. The flood of sugar in your mouth should be over quickly and not last forever. Ideally, you and your child should clean their teeth after eating.

But please not immediately: Immediately after eating, the enamel is soft and attacked by the acids contained in the food. You should wait about 15 to 30 minutes after eating to allow the pH in your mouth to neutralize again.

Then you can clean the deciduous teeth with a toothbrush and, if necessary, a child-friendly toothpaste without further damaging the enamel.

Extra toothpaste for children is a must

Tooth enamel becomes more resistant if your child is sufficiently supplied with fluoride. The trace element is found in some foods, is often added to tap water and can also be added to household salt.

Too much fluoride is harmful to health because the body has to excrete it again. However, your child’s toothpaste should definitely be fluoridated. Because the fluoride can have a direct effect on the tooth enamel when brushing your teeth.

However, your child should not swallow the toothpaste, but spit it out. Make sure that the fluoride content of the toothpaste is adjusted to the age of your child. Too much fluoride can cause stains on teeth and discoloration.

As long as your child doesn’t spit out the toothpaste and the foam that forms when brushing your teeth, you can of course also use a fluorine-free toothpaste. In the beginning you can of course also brush your child’s teeth without toothpaste. Plain tap water is sufficient to wet the toothbrush.

Small, soft toothbrushes for small children, medium-hard ones for older children

You will need to brush your child’s milk teeth again, or at least check them regularly after brushing, until around the age of eight or nine. That is normal. Brushing your teeth correctly requires excellent motor skills, especially when you are changing teeth and have loose teeth.

Support your child as best you can. Soft and ultra-soft toothbrushes are recommended for small children because children often cannot assess their strength and can injure their gums with harder bristles. From about primary school age, the toothbrush can then have a medium hardness.

The brush head should always be small enough for your child to be able to reach their molars without dislocating their jaw. Dental care is fun for most children, they like to take care of cleanliness and health in the mouth from the first milk tooth.


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