Like most mammals, humans get two sets of teeth over the course of a lifetime. The first set of teeth are temporary and are often referred to as milk teeth or baby teeth. The second set of teeth are permanent, adult teeth. While the development, growth, tooth appearance patterns and overall oral health can vary widely from person to person, tooth eruption and overall progression generally follow some common patterns. Let’s take a closer look at tooth growth, with categories divided by age:
Babies: 5 to 8 months: All babies are born with teeth hidden in their gums. For most, teeth begin to emerge around five to eight months of age, although in rare cases, some babies have been born with teeth, and some babies do not see their first tooth until around age one or even later. Baby teeth or milk teeth are smaller than adult teeth, due to the smaller size of a baby’s jaw. The first teeth to appear are the incisors, the flat-edged teeth at the front center of the mouth. There are eight total incisors, and they are used for biting when eating.
Toddlers: 16-23 months: After the incisors erupt, the canine teeth – known for their pointed appearance – erupt on either side of the eight incisors. Following the canines, eight more teeth should erupt by around the age of two. At this time, toddlers have 20 teeth – 10 on the top and 10 on the bottom. Children should have their first visit to the dentist sometime around their first birthday to ensure that teeth are erupting correctly and to begin to encourage good oral care habits.
Youth: 6-13 years: As we all know, baby teeth or milk teeth are only temporary and will eventually be replaced by adult teeth. Adult teeth usually begin to emerge around the age of six. As adult teeth begin to emerge, baby teeth will loosen and begin to fall out, usually one or two at a time. Adult teeth are larger than baby teeth, but at this age, a child’s jaw has lengthened and grown to accommodate the size of the larger teeth. Adult teeth generally erupt in a pattern like baby teeth: eight incisors, four canines, then four premolars. As the jaw grows, additional teeth also form. Two additional sets of molars are added to the mouth, making the total tooth count 28 permanent teeth.
Teens and young adults: As teens grow into young adults, teeth continue to reposition and emerge in the mouth. Depending on face shape and size of the mouth, teeth may erupt at odd angles or turn and twist due to crowding and other factors. A dentist may refer such cases to an orthodontist for further evaluation and treatment. In the late teens or early 20’s the wisdom teeth also begin to erupt. For some, there is not enough space in the mouth to accommodate these teeth, and the teeth must be removed by oral surgery.
Adults: Most adults have 28 to 32 permanent adult teeth – depending upon whether or not the jaw was able to accommodate wisdom teeth. No matter how many permanent adult teeth you have, proper oral hygiene is important. Take care to brush and floss at least twice daily, and be sure to schedule regular oral checkups with your dentist. Avoid sugary drinks, sweets and sticky foods in order to keep your teeth in the best shape possible. Don’t use tobacco products, which can dramatically impact dental health. And if you notice any pain or other oral problem or concern, contact you oral health care provider right away. Left unchecked, small issues can turn into big problems.
Adults over age 50: Even if you brush and floss frequently and visit your dentist often, as the body ages, some people develop additional oral health care concerns. Receding gums, gum disease and tooth loss other problems may become more prevalent as people age, so it’s important to visit your oral health care provider regularly to handle any issues that may arise. Permanent tooth loss can happen at any age but is more common in older adults. Your oral health care provider can offer a variety of solution including crowns, dentures or dental implants.
Of course there are some exceptions to the timelines listed above. Some need to have baby teeth or permanent teeth pulled due to dental or orthodontic concerns. Some may be missing teeth or have misplaced teeth in the mouth. The main thing to remember is that no matter what your age, proper oral hygiene is incredibly important. And it’s imperative to maintain a regular checkup schedule with your oral health care provider. Your dentist can troubleshoot any issues you may be facing, and advise you on the best ways to keep your pearly whites in good shape for years to come.
And don’t let dental anxiety prevent you from taking care of your mouth. While it’s not uncommon for both children and adults to fear the dentist and dread oral checkups, today’s dentists have many tools and tricks in place to help ease your anxiety and calm your fears. Talk to your dentist about your concerns or your child’s anxiety. Your oral health care provider will work with you to ensure a pleasant visit and good oral care, as well. That’s really something to smile about!
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