As much as we can’t resist those gummy baby smiles, seeing that first tooth poke its way through the gums is a proud parent moment. Sure, it's not exactly an accomplishment like learning to crawl or walk, but it definitely feels like one after all the drooling, fussing, and gnawing at anything within reach. Some babies and toddlers don’t get their teeth at the expected time, though, which might cause you some concern. This is referred to as delayed tooth eruption.
What Is Delayed Tooth Eruption?
Every baby is unique, and just like any other milestone, there will be natural differences in timing from one child to the next. The two lower front teeth usually begin to erupt about six months of age, followed by the four upper teeth, and then the rest of the teeth erupt in pairs, one on each side of the mouth. Before a child reaches the age of three, he or she will have a total of 20 baby teeth.
On average, children should have four teeth by 11 months, eight teeth by 15 months, 12 teeth by 19 months, 16 teeth by 23 months, and 20 teeth by 27 months. Teeth may come in slightly later and this is usually perfectly fine, but if the eruption pattern is abnormal or no teeth have erupted by the age of 18 months, we may diagnose it as delayed tooth eruption. This isn't a dental condition or a disorder; it's just a way of describing what's going on with your child's teeth.
Why Does Delayed Tooth Eruption Occur?
Genetics are often to blame for delayed tooth eruption. If you ask your parents or your partner’s parents, there's a good chance you'll discover a family pattern of late teethers. Other causes of delayed tooth eruption include:
- Low birthweight
- Genetic abnormalities like amelogenesis imperfecta and regional odontodysplasia
- Nutritional deficiency
- Down’s syndrome
If none of these apply to your child and he or she is otherwise healthy, the delay in teething is most likely "one of those things" and nothing to be concerned about. Your child’s teeth will erupt when they’re ready!
Is Treatment Needed for Delayed Tooth Eruption?
There’s no cure or treatment for delayed tooth eruption; instead, we simply monitor the situation with regular dental exams. That said, sometimes delayed tooth eruption may be a sign of potential dental problems that will require attention in the future, especially orthodontic issues. Significantly delayed tooth eruption can also make it difficult for children to eat a well-balanced diet with nutritious foods that require biting and chewing, so a visit to a nutritionist might be in order in such cases.
When Should My Child See a Dentist?
The American Dental Association recommends that children visit the dentist for the first time within six months of their first teeth erupting or when they turn one year old, whichever comes first. If your child’s teeth haven't erupted by 18 months, we strongly advise you to schedule an appointment with us. During this visit, we'll perform a thorough examination and, if needed, x-rays to identify any issues that may be causing delayed tooth eruption.