Q. My daughter, who is 1, has only two teeth. I'm concerned, although her doctor assures me that all her teeth will appear in time. I'm also wondering whether I should be brushing her two teeth, and, if so, should I use toothpaste?
A. Some infants cut teeth later than average, but a baby's first teeth usually start showing between 5 and 12 months. Your daughter's baby teeth, or primary teeth, began forming when you were about six weeks pregnant and started to calcify during your second trimester.
Although the age at which babies get their first choppers varies, the different types of teeth show up in a fairly predictable order. Typically, the lower teeth appear before the upper ones. On both jaws, the flat front teeth, or central incisors, cut first, followed by the lateral incisors on both sides of the central ones. Then come the first molars, those boxy biters toward the back, followed by the fang-like canines, the pointy teeth that flank the four front ones. Last to check in are the second molars, which line up behind the first molars, sometime after the second birthday.
It can take 15 to 28 months from the debut of the first teeth until all 20 are in. Once the teeth start appearing, your baby will probably average about one a month.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a baby start seeing a dentist when the first tooth cuts. (A few babies are born with teeth; these infants should see a dentist as soon as possible.) To clean your tot's mouth, gently wipe her gums and teeth with a damp infant washcloth or a gauze pad after feedings and before bedtime. Once she has seven or eight teeth, brush them daily with water and a soft-bristled infant toothbrush.
By the time she is 2, brush her teeth after breakfast and before bed. However, because swallowing too much fluoride can lead to tooth staining, be sure to use a fluoride-free toothpaste until she is about 3.