- A baby can teeth as early as three months or as late as 12 months old.
- Once your baby has teeth, wash them with a toddler or finger toothbrush and toothpaste.
- However, before your baby teeths, you should be washing their gums with a washcloth.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Seeing your baby’s first tooth emerge is an exciting, and adorable milestone. And typically, a baby’s first tooth will come in as early as three months.
But if it doesn’t appear by then, be patient. Every baby is on their own schedule, and the time their teeth come in will differ.
“Kids really vary a lot with when they get teeth, says Gina Posner, MD, board-certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center. “The majority of kids will start getting teeth anywhere between three months and as late as 12 months.”
Your baby’s first teeth are usually the bottom front two
The first teeth you’ll likely see pop up are the bottom front two, also known as the central incisors, says Posner.
After that, the top two central incisors will likely grow in next. Then, the lateral incisors, which are the teeth on either side of the two front teeth. After these, surrounding teeth tend to fill in front to back, along with the molars.
This is the most common progression. However, you shouldn’t be concerned if your baby’s teeth are erupting in a different pattern.
“Kids are very, very odd with how they get teeth. It’s very unpredictable,” says Posner. It takes months for the mouth to fill in, and it can take up to age three for all 20 primary teeth to come in, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
How to clean your baby’s teeth
As soon as teeth start popping up, it’s time to get started on oral hygiene. “I don’t think it’s ever too soon to start brushing those teeth,” Posner says because babies are susceptible to tooth decay and cavities, just like the rest of us.
Below are three methods for brushing your little one’s pearly whites.
- Washcloth: Even before your baby has teeth, you should clean the gums by gently running a clean, damp washcloth over them. It’s important to take care of the gums as well as the teeth. The washcloth is a good way to ease the baby into the next steps of teeth brushing, so toothbrushes won’t feel as foreign.
- Finger toothbrush: There are many options of little brushes you can put on your pointer finger, finger puppet style. Usually, these brushes are made of silicone and are very gentle. Again, you can use these on new teeth and on the gums. “I’d probably say at the very beginning, the finger brush is probably the easiest,” Posner says.
- Toddler toothbrush: When more teeth have come in and the baby is not so much a baby anymore, it’s time to use a “real” toothbrush with soft bristles. They will eventually be able to hold the brush on their own, but you’ll still need to provide lots of help and guidance.
What toothpaste to use
As soon as you start seeing those teeth, break out the toothpaste. You’ll want to use a toothpaste formulated especially for babies and toddlers, of course.
While some parents are hesitant to give their babies fluoride toothpaste, the general consensus is that a tiny bit of fluoride toothpaste is okay. “Dentists are actually saying to put a tiny grain of rice or smaller size of fluoride toothpaste on, and that amount is safe to swallow,” Posner says.
Once your baby is a little older and is able to spit the toothpaste out, you can use a pea-sized amount.
Luckily, you don’t have to worry about brushing your baby’s teeth after every feeding or meal. According to Posner, “morning and night, twice a day” will do the trick. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry also states twice daily brushing will suffice.
If you don’t take good care of your baby’s teeth, they can get severe tooth decay. “There’s something called ‘Baby bottle tooth decay’ and their teeth can just rot out,” says Posner. Luckily, with regular oral hygiene practices, this is preventable.
You’ll also want to be gentle when brushing. Posner says, “You don’t want to brush too hard. You can always mess with the enamel if you’re really scrubbing.”
You don’t need to take your baby to the dentist as soon as a tooth starts coming in. “By the time they start getting, five, six teeth, it’s time to start taking them to a dentist so they can check and make sure everything looks good,” Posner says.
You should be sure to take them around their first birthday if you haven’t already at that point. If your baby is a year old and doesn’t have any teeth yet, you should certainly bring them in to see what’s going on.
So remember, when your baby’s first tooth comes in, start to get in the habit of a good oral hygiene technique, and you’ll be setting them up for years to come of healthy teeth.