Your baby's first tooth usually breaks through the gum (erupts) at about 6 months. Many times you might not know that your baby has a new tooth coming in until you see it or hear it click against an object, such as a spoon. Some babies may show signs of discomfort from sore and sensitive gums, be cranky, drool, and have other mild symptoms. These symptoms usually begin about 3 to 5 days before a tooth erupts and go away as soon as the tooth breaks through the gum. For more information, see the topic Teething.
By the time your child is 6 months of age, your doctor should assess the likelihood of your child having future dental problems.1, 2 This may include a dental exam of the mother and her dental history, as the condition of her teeth can often predict her child's teeth. If your doctor feels your child will have dental problems, be sure your child sees a dentist before his or her first birthday or 6 months after the first primary teeth appear, whichever comes first. After your first visit, schedule regular visits every 6 months or as your dentist recommends.
Experts recommend that your child's dental care start at 12 months of age.2 Babies with dental problems caused by injury, disease, or a developmental problem should be seen by a dentist right away. A children's dentist (pediatric dentist) is specially trained to treat these problems.
If these dental problems are not limited to the surfaces of the teeth, your baby should also be seen by a children's doctor (pediatrician) or your family doctor. For more information, see the topics Mouth and Dental Injuries and Mouth Problems, Noninjury.
You can begin to practice good dental health habits with your child at the appearance of the first tooth:
- American Academy of Pediatrics (2003, reaffirmed 2009). Oral health risk assessment timing and establishment of the dental home. Pediatrics, 111(5): 1113–1116. Also available online: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/111/5/1113.full.
- American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (2012). Guidelines on infant oral health care. Available online: http://www.aapd.org/media/Policies_Guidelines/G_InfantOralHealthCare.pdf.
- American Dental Association (2009). ADA policy on cigarettes and other tobacco products. Available online: http://www.ada.org/news/929.aspx.
Last Revised: January 7, 2013
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