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Otherwise known as primary teeth, baby teeth are the first teeth that will grow in for any child, and they play several important roles. While they will eventually fall out during child development, they’re vital for children who will generally grow a full set of 20 teeth by age three.

At Salt Lake Pediatric Dentistry, we’re proud to provide various dental services for infants and very young children and their baby teeth, including several prevention areas that help limit future risks during this important period. Here’s some basic information on the role baby teeth play in your child’s mouth, some basics on starting an early cavity and tooth decay prevention program, and what to do about a couple common behaviors related to primary teeth.

Basics and Function of Baby Teeth

Baby teeth will generally begin to grow into your child’s mouth around six months of age. They hold a few important purposes for all children:

  • Basic chewing and food consumption
  • Helping form early speech patterns
  • Helping form and hold the shape of the face, including preparing the mouth and jaw for adult teeth to eventually grow in

As we noted above, healthy young mouths should generally have a full set of 20 primary teeth by roughly age three.  These teeth may not always be perfectly spaced or shaped. They will fall out gradually over a period of years, and adult teeth will begin to grow in and replace the primary teeth around the age of six.

Early Cavity and Decay Prevention

Some basic cleaning tips for baby teeth that will prevent the risk of bacteria or other dangers that lead to cavities and tooth decay:

  • Before your baby even has visible teeth, you can begin the process of cleaning their gums, often after feeding. Use a damp gauze pad or cloth to gently wipe the area and soothe their gums.
  • Once teeth begin appearing, they should be brushed twice a day using a child toothbrush (these come with soft bristles that don’t irritate their gums). Use fluoride toothpaste in small quantities.
  • As soon as baby teeth grow in next to each other and are touching, begin flossing them daily.

Thumb Sucking

Some children may suck on their thumbs, which can be a natural habit but not one that should be encouraged.  It’s a habit that could possibly lead to problems with tooth alignment, bite and development during growth.  Gently discourage this when you can. If your child has not stopped sucking their thumb on their own by age four, here are some additional tips to assist them:

  • Focus on ways to redirect the feelings that lead to thumb sucking into other areas that help detract from it and make the child feel at ease.
  • Be positive and offer praise or reward for not sucking.
  • Sometimes it can be helpful to have your child’s dentist and/or doctor explain to the child why thumb sucking can be bad and help them stop.


Another common issue is teething, where infants and toddlers experience gum soreness, as new teeth get ready to break through.  To help relieve soreness you can give your child teething toys, a cold washcloth to chew on and ibuprofen if they are over six months of age to help with the discomfort.  If you have any questions or concerns about a particular product you should talk with your child’s pediatric dentist.


For more on baby teeth and their care, or to learn about any of our pediatric dental services, speak to the staff at Salt Lake Pediatric Dentistry today.