While your baby’s first teeth can come in any time between four and ten months old, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) says that the first primary molars won’t make an appearance until 13-19 months, followed by the second primary molars at 23-33 months.
The eight primary molars are not just handy for chewing the solid food your baby is now enjoying. These important teeth also serve as placeholders for the secondary (adult) premolars, shaping the lower jaw and supporting the placement of the rest of your child’s teeth.
Here’s how to help your baby through the primary molar teething stage and beyond.
What To Expect When The Primary Molars Erupt
Although you may know the signs to look out for and what to expect from the first teething period, molars can present a few additional challenges.
Unlike the sharp, pointed incisors that cut through the gums relatively easily, the molars are wide and flat. This can be especially painful for your baby, so they may seem more distressed than usual. Thankfully, there are a number of ways you can help.
Teething can make eating uncomfortable for your baby, but you can help with a few simple dietary adjustments.
Soft foods like purees, yoghurt or mashed fruits may be gentler on your baby’s sore gums than solids. A mashed banana is a popular choice, and will also help by cooling or numbing the inflamed gums.
On the other hand, your baby may want to gnaw on something to counteract the pressure in their gums, in which case you can offer them a chilled, uncut carrot to chew.
Icy or cold water can also help to ease the pain of molar eruption. However, some babies find ice water too intense, so you may have to try different temperatures until they are happy.
Helping Your Baby During Molar Eruption
Aside from the timing and the difference in shape, there is little difference in the way molars erupt compared to the incisors that came before them. You can help your baby through this period in much the same way, following this advice from the ADA:
- Use a clean finger or soft cloth to massage your baby’s sore gums (but beware of those other sharp teeth!).
- Give your baby chilled (but not frozen) teething toys, rings or cloths to gnaw on.
- If your baby is eating solids, give them sugar-free teething biscuits, bread crusts and other firm-textured foods to chew on.
Caring For Your Child’s New Primary Molars
After the eruption of the final primary molars, your child now has a full set of 20 ‘baby’ teeth. These teeth can affect the permanent teeth that come after them, so the ADA stresses that it’s important to take good care of them now to ensure lifelong oral health.
Molars have a larger surface area than incisors and canines, and they’re set further back in the mouth. This can make them harder to brush thoroughly and can allow plaque and cavities to develop, so pay special attention to the molars during your child’s toothbrushing routine.
What About The Permanent Molars?
From around six years of age, Better Health says that the baby teeth will start to fall out. Primary molars will be replaced by the first set of secondary molars (two in each jaw) that will sit behind the primary teeth, and a second set will follow at around 11-13 years of age.
Your child might be feeling some familiar pain or discomfort around this time. As with the primary molars, soft foods and ice water can help to ease the pain.
Now is the ideal opportunity to review your child’s oral health habits and remind them of proper brushing and flossing technique, ensuring that they’re getting to those hard-to-reach areas around the molars.
Should You See Your Dentist?
Yes. Whether your child is cutting their primary or secondary molars, your dentist will want to check that they’re erupting properly. Your dentist can also advise you on the best ways to care for your child’s new teeth, and will be able to recommend an appropriate paediatric pain reliever if your child is struggling to tolerate the pain.