A child gets two sets of teeth. The first set, baby teeth, starts to grow when the child is a baby. The second and last set grows in at school age. They are the permanent teeth. Permanent teeth should last a lifetime.
Development of baby teeth
A child’s baby teeth are being made before birth while the baby is still inside the mother’s womb. During the last months of pregnancy and the first few months after the child is born, the baby teeth take their final form.
A child grows his/her first baby tooth at about 7 months of age. It is usually a front one.
A baby who is poorly nourished, however, may not grow his/her first tooth until later. Do not wait for the first tooth before giving him/her the extra soft food he needs to grow and stay healthy.
The remaining baby teeth grow in over the next 24 months.
By the time the child is 30 months old, there will be a total of 20 baby teeth in his/her mouth, 10 on top and 10 on the bottom.
Importance of baby teeth
Baby teeth are just as important to children as permanent teeth are to adults. They help a child to eat, talk, and look good.
However, many people feel that it is not worth the effort to look after baby teeth. Nor is it worth fixing them. After all, parents think, the permanent teeth will take their place.
This kind of thinking is understandable. The problem is that we are forgetting one other useful purpose of baby teeth. Baby teeth keep space in the mouth for the permanent teeth to grow in. If there is not enough space, the new teeth will grow in crooked, and cavities grow faster around crooked teeth.
Most permanent teeth form under the baby teeth.
At the same time, extra permanent molars are forming at the back of the mouth, inside the bone.
When the child is between 6 and 12 years old, the permanent teeth push against the roots of the baby teeth, making them fall out.
Not all of the baby teeth fall out at once. One tooth at a time becomes loose, falls out, and then is replaced with a permanent tooth.
The new tooth may not grow in immediately. Sometimes 2 or 3 months pass before the new tooth grows into the space.
In the 6 years between ages 6 and 12, the 20 permanent teeth replace the 20 baby teeth. In addition, 8 other teeth grow in behind the baby teeth.
At 6 years, the 4 first permanent molars start to grow in at the back of the mouth. This means an 8-year-old child should have 24 teeth, or spaces for them.
At 12 years, the 4 second permanent molars grow in behind the first molars. This means a 14-year-old child should have 28 teeth, or spaces for them.
Between 16 and 22 years, the 4 third permanent molars grow in. This means that an adult usually has a total of 32 permanent teeth: 16 on top and 16 on the bottom.