The arrival of your baby’s first teeth is an important milestone in their development. It’s understandable that a parent may become anxious if months pass and there’s no sign of those little chompers. However, there are several reasons why there may be a delay, and the age at which a child’s primary teeth (baby teeth) arrive can greatly vary. If your child’s teeth are coming in slowly or you’re noticing missing baby teeth at an age when other children already have theirs, don’t panic! Read why this might be the case and what you can and should do about it.
Baby’s First Primary Tooth – What is the Norm?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and Colgate’s Oral Care Center, the first primary tooth eruption typically occurs between 4 months and 15 months of age. By age 3, most children have their full set of primary teeth. If your child is 18 months and has not developed any baby teeth, you should bring them to a pediatric dentist for an evaluation. There may be very good reasons for this, and there’s still an excellent chance that they will eventually develop their primary teeth and, in time, perfectly healthy permanent teeth.
Possible Causes of Delayed Tooth Eruption
Scientific studies on delayed tooth eruption (DTE) indicate various possible causes. In general, girls tend to see their first baby teeth earlier than boys. DTE may also be a genetic trait. If others in your family have had delayed tooth eruption, your child may experience this as well. Premature babies and those with a low birth weight might also get their first baby teeth later than others, and they might also be born with defects in the tooth enamel. In addition, racial, ethnic and other factors may play a role in what is considered a “normal” age for tooth eruption.
Research on DTE that has been cited in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics indicates certain rare genetic abnormalities that may be the cause of late primary tooth formation, including regional odontodysplasia and amelogenesis imperfecta. The culprit may also be nutritional deficiency or vitamin D-resistant rickets, which affects the body’s intake and use of vitamin D, although these conditions might also indicate the presence of Down’s Syndrome or another type of developmental defect. Other causes of DTE might be tumors or cysts in the gums, which can prevent teeth from properly erupting, and ankylosis, a fusing of the tooth’s dentin and cementum with the alveolar bone, which may cause primary teeth to stay embedded.
Can Delayed Tooth Eruption Be a Health Concern?
In most cases, if the delay of a child’s primary teeth isn’t part of a bigger health issue, it’s not of great concern. However, it may cause an increased risk of dental problems as they get older. This study published in the journal PLOS Genetics found that 30 percent of children with the gene responsible for DTE were 35 percent more likely to require orthodontic treatment by the time they reached the age of 30. Primary teeth are also essential for proper eating and speech, and they pave the way for healthy permanent teeth that will serve the same functions as the child gets older.
What Should You Do About Delayed Tooth Eruption?
While there is likely no cause for alarm, parents should bring their child to their pediatric dentist if their baby teeth are late in arriving, and especially if they’re concerned that there might be a more serious underlying issue.
Your dentist will be able to see if the teeth are already formed in the gums with a simple X-ray. If the teeth are there but are being prevented from popping out due to some abnormality, they may suggest removal, though this more commonly occurs with adult (permanent) teeth.
With regular visits to your pediatric dentist during your child’s dental development, they’ll grow up with beautiful, healthy teeth.