When do teeth start to form?

Teeth start forming under the gums even before a child is born. During pregnancy, a woman can get her child's teeth off to a healthy start by following her doctor's advice and eating a well-balanced diet. A child's first tooth generally breaks through the gum at about 5 or 6 months of age, but this can vary quite a bit. Some children already have a tooth when they are born. It may be a real tooth or an extra tooth. To find out, your pediatrician may have your child see a pediatric dentist. Other children may not get their first tooth until after 1 year of age.

What can I expect when my child starts teething?

When teething begins, your child's gum may be swollen in the spot where a tooth is about to break through. To ease the sensation of teething, you can give infants a one-piece teething ring or pacifier to suck on. (Teething rings and pacifiers made up of more than one piece may become unattached and may cause choking.) You should never give infants pacifiers that have been dipped in sweet liquids. Sugar from such liquids stays on the teeth and provides food for bacteria that can cause tooth decay.

When they are several months old, infants begin to produce more saliva than they are able to swallow, which causes them to drool. Also at about the same age they begin to put objects in their mouths and bite or chew on them. Drooling and chewing on objects (or rubbing them against the gum) are a natural part of an infant's development and may or may not signify teething.

No matter when your child's teeth begin appearing, keep in mind that her baby teeth are important. Baby teeth, or primary teeth, help her chew food, speak clearly, and retain space for their permanent teeth that start to come in at about 5 or 6 years of age.

It is important to get children into the habit of good dental care at an early age. Children who begin to take care of their teeth at a young age are more likely to have good dental habits as adults.

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