The office receives a great number of questions about teeth in children and when they should first appear and what to do about certain problems children have with their teeth. So, in this blog, I will address some of those questions and concerns.

First, children have two sets of teeth, primary(baby) teeth, and permanent (adult) teeth. All teeth are important for speech, chewing and give the face structure. In addition, the primary teeth help children develop the muscles necessary for chewing and  also act as placeholders for the permanent teeth, which erupt later in life.

The first primary tooth will usually erupt around the age of 6 months. After that happens, the parents should brush the child’s teeth twice daily to prevent tooth decay. Generally, at 2 years of age, all 20 primary teeth will erupt. Parents should continue to brush the child’s teeth until he or she is able to avoid swallowing the toothpaste.

One common misconception of parents is that primary teeth do not require dental care since they are temporary and will eventually be replaced by permanent teeth. If a primary tooth is lost before the scheduled time of eruption of its permanent successor, it is likely the space will reduce in size, or even close due to drifting of near by teeth, which can cause the permanent tooth to grow in crooked. A baby tooth which has a large cavity which is not treated, can abscess. This infection can actually harm the permanent tooth which is developing under the baby tooth.

The primary teeth are lost between 7 and 12 years of age and are replaced with permanent teeth. This phase of development is typically referred to as the “mixed dentition” stage because children have both primary and permanent teeth.

There are a total of 32 permanent teeth; the additional 12 teeth will erupt behind the primary teeth and are called the molars. All permanent teeth erupt by the age of 14 with the exception of the “wisdom teeth” or third molars that erupt between the ages of 17 and 25.  Not everyone develops “wisdom teeth”, but those of us that do typically have them removed for one reason or another.  Usually because they are so far back in the mouth and are often difficult to properly clean.  This does not interfere with chewing as the “wisdom teeth” are not generally used for chewing.

That is a quick over view of the primary or “baby” tooth story. The most common question or concern that parents express is when the lower permanent front teeth begin to erupt. It can look strange, like the child is actually getting a second set of teeth behind the front baby teeth.  Actually, what you see are the two permanent teeth erupting behind the baby teeth. As the permanent teeth come in, they will move forward and actually “push” the baby teeth out.

The pictures should help with the “average” time-table of when baby and permanent teeth should appear in a child’s mouth. It can vary by months, so do not get too concerned if your child seems a bit slow with his tooth development. If you are worried, the dentist can take an x-ray and show you the permanent teeth developing in your child’s mouth.