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Babies and Solid Foods
Q: Are a ten-month-old's teeth developed enough to chew tougher foods, like chicken?
A: Most children have some teeth at 10 months of age, but not their molars. Still, they can eat bits of tender, cooked chicken. The typical age for children to get their first tooth is about 6 or 7 months. The first teeth are usually the central incisors (the front 2 middle teeth) on the bottom; next come the front 2 teeth on the top. The lateral incisors appear on the bottom and then the top, right next to the central incisors. These teeth come in rapid succession so that, by the time a child is 12 months old, she will have about 6 to 8 teeth, but all in the front. The molars (the back teeth that you use to chew and grind your food) don't usually appear until about 15 months. Some children develop their teeth later, but this doesn't mean that there's anything wrong -- some infants don't start getting their first teeth until they are close to a year old.
The presence or absence of teeth shouldn't affect whether or not your child can advance her repertoire of solid foods. The front teeth are primarily for biting or tearing a small bit of food off a larger piece. You then use your back teeth (as well as your tongue and palate) to do the actual mashing and grinding of the food to get it small enough to swallow. Infants use their gums to help mash their food so that it can be swallowed. For most foods (bread, pasta, cereal, soft fruits, and tender, cooked vegetables and meats) this works perfectly well.
There are definitely some foods that you should avoid giving your child at this stage. Nuts, hard candy, hard raw vegetables, raisins, popcorn, and hot dogs all require hard back teeth to handle them properly, and to minimize the risk of choking. You should not give these to children who don't have their molars, and I recommended you avoid them completely until your child is at least two years old.
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Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.