Helpful Pediatric Dentistry Tips!

Development & Care of Children’s Teeth: A Timeline

by Dr. Steven Whittemore | Published July 1, 2019

As a parent, it seems like there are always a million things to worry about when it comes to your child. Are they eating well? Are they exercising enough? Are they on their best behavior (probably the most stressful question!)? As your kids start to develop and mature, parents often question if their child’s teeth are growing in properly. Every child has a different mouthful of teeth, and almost all of them grow in slightly different ways. However, there are certain types of teeth, growth patterns, and stages of development that we look for in every child.

Types of Teeth in Children

Although no two children have the same set of teeth, all kids share the type of teeth. Whether they still have their primary teeth (also known as baby teeth) or have developed their adult teeth (permanent teeth) , these are the types of teeth that make up their smile.


The incisors are found front and center on both the lower and upper jaw. When your child is still in his/her early infancy stages, these teeth play an important role in helping them eat while the rest of their teeth still grow in. Although babies still frequently “chew” with their the back of their mouths while the molars are still underdeveloped, these teeth play a pivotal role in their early stages of eating.


Canine teeth are found in between the incisors and the first molar on both the upper and lower jaw. You can easily spot them by their strong, sharp points that are used to help rip apart food.


Sometimes referred to as “bicuspids’’, these flat-bottomed teeth towards the back of the mouth have a pivotal role in helping your child chew food with more efficiency. They are found on both the lower and upper jaw in between the canines and molars. However, premolars are only found when permanent teeth grow in.


Molars differentiate form premolars because they are larger and are tucked back further within the upper and lower jaws. When these teeth come in, they become the primary teeth for chewing in both children and adults since they have large, flat surfaces.

Development of Teeth Throughout Childhood

Babies start developing teeth when they are in the womb, although the process is slow to start. When they hit about 5 weeks of age of gestation, the first development on their primary teeth begins. Here is a general timeline of what you can expect with your child’s teeth development

0-12 Months of Age

Your child probably won’t see much for teething in their first 6-8 months. However, their lower central incisors will start to appear somewhere between 6-10 months of age and will be followed by their upper incisors somewhere in the 8-12 months range. By about 16 months of age you can expect all the top and bottom incisors to have made their way through the gums.

13-18 Months of Age

At around 13 months of age, children’s first primary molars will start appearing. Generally, molars start appearing in the upper jaw and lower jaw around the same time. When kids are about 16 months old, their canines can also start peeking through. Although teething can occur at any age, this age range is when kids start to feel them, given that the larger teeth have started appearing. Once these teeth start coming through, your child will be able to eat a wider range of food!

19-30 Months of Age

If your child’s canine teeth have not popped through yet, expect them to show up sometime between 16-22 months of age. Much like the molars, the upper and lower canines commonly appear around the same time. The remaining months will be the finalization of the molars. They can start coming through as early as 21 months of age and as late as 33 months. We know that can seem like a large range, but patience is key! 

Anticipatory Guidance

The dentists and dental staff at Pediatric Dentistry of Central Iowa make it a goal that every dental visit is an educational one. Since each kid’s set of teeth grows in differently than others, we keep a close eye on growth patterns and the potential need of interceptive orthodontics with our anticipatory guidance. If your child were to ever need interceptive orthodontics, our supportive team will sit down with you and your child to establish what treatments would be needed. Our goal is to provide the best smile possible with a healthy mouth!

Caring For Children’s Teeth Throughout The Years

As kid’s teeth start to grow in and fall out, there are important steps to take as a parent so that their teeth develop properly. Parents sometimes think that primary teeth do not need as much attention since they will eventually fall out. However, that is entirely wrong, and the neglecting primary teeth care can cause long term issues for adult teeth. Throughout their growing cycle, these are the ways that their teeth should be cared for and cleaned.

From Birth

Before your baby’s first tooth pops through, parents need to use a soft cloth to clean the inside of their mouth.

First Tooth

It’s an exciting time when your baby’s first tooth comes through. When one of their incisors finally appears, use a soft toothbrush twice a day to keep it and the rest of the gums clean. Avoid using hard bristles at all costs! It can cause damage to the gums and the teeth that will grow from under them.

1-2 Years of Age

If your baby’s first handful of primary teeth have started appearing, then it’s time to get them started on properly brushing with toothpaste. The children will certainly still need their parents’ help, but getting them involved by using a rice grain-sized amount of low fluoride children’s toothpaste will be fundamental during this age.

2-3 Years of Age

At this age, most children have begun to develop a mouthful of teeth. As the teeth start lining up next to each other, it’s imperative that they start flossing between teeth that touch. 

3-5 Years of Age

The timing might vary for each child, but this age range should be the time when kids learn to become self-reliant on their ability to brush their teeth. As a parent, you might find that it is easier said than done. Kids can often stubborn or unwilling to want change when the parents have helped them all this time before. If you are having trouble getting your kid to brush on their own, here are some helpful tips for getting your child to brush their teeth.

6-8 Years of Age

These years are when it is safe to switch your child over to adult toothpaste and encourage your child to rely on themselves for dental hygiene care. After they have started to find a rhythm or schedule, focus on making sure they come by for regular dental check ups.

First Dental Appointment

At Pediatric Dentistry of Central Iowa, we recommend that you take your child in for their first appointment somewhere between one and two years of age. Even though plenty of babies still don’t have their first tooth within the first 18-24 months, their first dental visit will help us get acquainted with them. We will discuss oral hygiene, suckling habits, diet and nutrition, and everything else that goes with helping your child’s teeth properly develop.

Schedule a Dental Appointment Today

Is your child due for a dental check up? Schedule an appointment with either our Des Moines or Ankeny office! If your child is a first time patient with us, we ask that you fill our new patient form ahead of the scheduled time to make the process easier for everyone! We look forward to seeing you and your child at their next dental check in!

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