06 Dec Dental growth and development in fetuses to 18-month-old babies.
Children’s Teeth and Mouth #1
Let’s learn about children’s teeth and mouth from this new series of articles.
If you enjoy food and conversation with healthy teeth and mouth all your life, you will be very happy.
Healthy permanent teeth that are well aligned with no cavities are very important for your baby’s overall life-long health. Prevention of tooth decay from an early age when they still have baby teeth is very important.
The best gift you can give is a healthy tooth alignment. As a parent, what can you do to help your child obtain a healthy permanent tooth alignment?
In this column, I’ll give clear and detailed explanations and answer questions about the mouth. Also, I’d like to let you know how the differences between your lifestyle and Japanese lifestyle, including diet and social systems, will affect your child’s oral hygiene.
Let’s talk about how baby teeth and permanent teeth grow and appear.
Ⅰ. Dental growth and development in fetuses to 18-month-old babies.
Baby teeth start to grow in the womb when you are about two weeks pregnant, and the shapes of the teeth are formed during late pregnancy.
Because a baby is protected in the womb, environmental factors and his/her mother’s condition won’t easily affect baby teeth. However, serious diseases of a mother or a baby may affect the condition of baby teeth.
For example, the first molar tooth; the tooth germ hardens and begins to form into the tooth shape in the jawbone (called calcification.) and this first molar tooth will appear at about six years of age. After that other permanent teeth will grow in the jawbone in sequence.
If a baby suffered from serious diseases or injuries during or after birth, it may affect the growth of the permanent tooth which may change in color or shape.
It’s an unforgettable moment when your baby begins to show their first tooth at about six months of age. At this age he/she can begin to eat solid food and increase food variety gradually. By the age of 12 months he/she may have four front teeth on each jaw, can bite off food with the front teeth, and eat food with his/her hand.
As baby’s molar teeth may appear when a baby becomes 18 months old, he/she can begin to chew solids. Then he/she has completed weaning*1 and can get all nutrients from only solid food. At this stage of life, the prevention of baby tooth decay becomes the most important. But you don’t need to worry if your baby reaches these milestones faster or slower than other babies. The time when a tooth appears depends on each child. If you have any concern about his/her teeth, please consult a dentist at your baby’s 18-month-old check-up*2.
*1 The time to stop breastfeeding. Generally speaking, in other countries, the time to wean your child from breastfeeding seems not to be advised clearly. In Japan, a baby used to be breastfed for four to five years. However, dentists currently recommend completing weaning between the ages of 1 and 2 because of insufficient nutrition from breast milk, further functional development of the mouth, and cavity prevention. Pediatricians may advise that you can breastfeed your child as long as he/she wants to nurse. (I’ll pick this controversial topic later in another occasion.)
*2 Dental health checkup for 18-month-old babies The first dental health check-up is held at your health center, when your baby turns 18 months old. This information is sent to you if you are a registered resident of Sapporo. A baby’s health check-up begins at birth, but baby’s dental health check-ups begin at the age of 18 months. If you have questions such as when and where you should take your baby for dental health check-up, please ask your local health center.
Masaki Kudo D.M.D.