Baby

Late teething: Understanding the development of your child’s teeth and when to get a dentist involved

All your friends’ babies started teething around six months, and your one-year-old is still toothless? We’ll explain why some babies’ teeth appear later than others.

Normal growth

A baby’s first tooth usually appears around the six-month mark, but in some cases, the first tooth can appear when a baby is just three months old. In extremely rare cases, some babies are even born with a tooth showing. It’s also completely normal, if yours is a late-bloomer, to see that elusive first tooth appear after 12 months.

By the time toddlers hit three years old, most have all 20 primary teeth in place. Primary teeth are important, even if they’re only temporary, because they help define your child’s face and help his or her permanent teeth grow in the correct position. A couple of years later, between the ages of six and seven, the first permanent teeth start to grow and eventually replace each of the primary teeth, which will fall out until the ages of 12 and 13.

Since the enamel on the outer surface of primary teeth is thinner than on permanent teeth, toddlers are particularly vulnerable to childhood cavities, which can occur as early as the first tooth. It’s important to help your child maintain good dental hygiene from the get-go by encouraging proper care of teeth and gums.

Planning dentist visits, starting at 12 months (even if your child still doesn’t have any teeth), is a crucial step to ensuring that he or she starts out on the right path.

Teething chart

Upper teeth

Eruption

Central incisor

Between 7 and 12 months

Lateral incisor

Between 9 and 13 months

Canine

Between 16 and 22 months

First molar

Between 13 and 19 months

Second molar

Between 25 and 33 months

Lower teeth

Eruption

Central incisor

Between 6 and 10 months

Lateral incisor

Between 7 and 16 months

Canine

Between 16 and 23 months

First molar

Between 12 and 18 months

Second molar

Between 20 and 31 months

Source: Canadian Dental Association

Late teething

As we mentioned earlier, a baby’s first tooth may appear as late as 12 months—this is absolutely nothing to worry about. All children develop at their own pace without it necessarily being the direct result of some health issue.

Since planning a first checkup is recommended around 12 months anyway, mention your concerns to your child’s dentist, so that a thorough examination of your child’s mouth can take place and you can feel reassured knowing either way.

Even though we shouldn’t worry about our babies teething late, it can still cause minor daily annoyances.

Feeding a hungry baby who has no teeth, for example, isn’t easy. Moms who’ve gone through it will tell you to cut all food into tiny cubes your baby can chew with his or her gums. Reducing foods down into purees can make mealtime easier too.

Complications

Most children will eventually get all their adult teeth without any major complications. Those who start teething late, however, may be hiding underlying problems that will affect the development of permanent teeth:

  • Primary teeth appear late: While this itself isn’t necessarily a problem, your child may feel sad to see friends sharing their tooth fairy stories, while he or she has yet to lose a tooth.
  • Crooked permanent teeth: The primary teeth’s roots are blocking the permanent teeth, causing them to grow off-centre.
  • Double row of teeth: Sometimes, permanent teeth will begin to grow in front of primary ones, giving your child two rows of teeth. It may seem disastrous, but there’s usually no reason to worry. If the primary teeth are already loose, they should fall out in the coming weeks. If not, head to the dentist.
  • Pericoronitis: When teeth remain beneath the surface of the gums, infection around the crown of each tooth can spread to surrounding tissue.
  • Cavities: Teeth beneath the gums can still develop cavities. In fact, over time, the decayed tooth can even start affecting surrounding teeth.

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