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Do gaps in baby teeth mean anything?

Baby Teeth Basics

So what's the deal with all that space? "When a child's first teeth begin emerging from their gums, it's actually considered pretty normal for spaces to occur in baby teeth," says Dr. Jonathan Shenkin, a pediatric dentist at the Boston University School of Dental Medicine, adding that the gaps are found in about 40 percent of kids. This spacing does not cause problems -- in fact, these spaces are great. They give the permanent adult teeth room to grow in, and this is good news since it also means that the permanent adult teeth will likely not be crowded, helping alleviate the need for costly braces [source: Haugseth]. Still, some children do grow up with a noticeable amount of excess space between their adult teeth, though this is not very common.

But, let's get back to baby teeth. With all this space between the teeth, many parents may feel they can forego flossing and just stick to brushing. But, dentists suggest that flossing should start early, especially between the back molars.

If you're wondering whether these gaps are referred to as primate spaces, the simple answer is no. Primate spaces occur between the baby eye teeth (also known as canines since they look like fangs) and the first baby molar (sometimes called the one year molar) behind it, and usually go unnoticed [source: Haugseth].

Using information from the American Dental Association, we can expect the following timeline:

  • 6 to 8 months old: The bottom front teeth (incisors) commonly emerge around 6 months of age, with the top two appearing a couple months later.
  • 9 months old: The teeth flanking the front teeth, also known as lateral incisors, grow in when a child is approaching his or her first birthday.
  • 13 months old: The first-year molar appears shortly after that first birthday cake.
  • 16 months old: Those sharp pointy eye teeth are one way to know that it's time to feed your baby some food that needs to be chewed well.
  • 2 years old: The second set of molars begins to appear.
  • 6 years old: A child's first adult teeth emerge.

So what are your options?