Did you know kids can have 48-52 teeth all at once? The number of teeth may surprise you, but it is sort of a trick question because some are hidden from view - they are developing in their jaw bone!
Early Tooth Development:
Tooth development occurs mostly in the jaw bone before the teeth erupt into the mouth although the roots of teeth do not actually finish growing and maturing until 2-3 years after they erupt into the mouth. Children have two sets of teeth during development - baby teeth (also called primary or deciduous teeth) and adult teeth (also called permanent or succedaneous teeth). Baby tooth development actually starts in utero around 14-19 weeks before erupting into the mouth around 6 months of age and the adult teeth start to develop around birth with the last adult teeth development (wisdom teeth) starting by age 8 to 10 years of age or so.
Children usually begin to develop baby teeth between the ages of 6 and 12 months. The eruption of baby teeth varies among children, but by the age of 3, most children have a full set of 20 baby teeth. These teeth include 8 incisors (4 on the top and 4 on the bottom), 4 canines (2 on the top and 2 on the bottom), and 8 molars (4 on the top and 4 on the bottom).
Around the age of 5 to 7, children start losing their baby teeth as the adult teeth begin to come in. The process of losing baby teeth and the eruption of adult teeth typically continues until around the age of 12 to 14 years. The adult teeth gradually replace the baby teeth, resulting in a total of 32 permanent teeth.
How do teeth fall out?
The process of baby teeth falling out and adult teeth coming in is called exfoliation. It occurs because the roots of the baby teeth dissolve, allowing the teeth to become loose (or wiggly) and eventually fall out. As the baby teeth are lost, the permanent teeth underneath push their way up through the gums to take their place.
Wiggling out of Baby Teeth:
When baby teeth become loose, children often wiggle them with their fingers or tongue. The roots gradually dissolve, causing the baby teeth to become less stable.
Sometimes, the baby teeth fall out on their own while eating or brushing. In other cases, children may need to give the tooth a gentle tug to help it come out. Once a tooth is wiggly, encourage your child to wiggle the tooth out - it is a fun process!
It's a natural process for baby teeth to fall out to make way for permanent teeth. Occasionally, children may experience some discomfort or pain as the permanent teeth erupt, but this is usually temporary. When your child is at their routine care visits, you can easily ask about any future baby teeth that may become wiggly and check on overall development - this is such a fun thing to discuss with your pediatric dentist.
Some fun facts:
It's worth noting that the timing of tooth eruption and exfoliation can vary from child to child. The sequence and pace of losing baby teeth and getting adult teeth may differ, but the general pattern described above is the most common. And did you know that some people do always develop all their teeth? Approximately 1 in 4 people is missing a tooth (usually the permanent wisdom teeth) - sometimes this runs in families, can occur with certain health conditions, but other times has no known cause. Every once in awhile, a person may have more (extra) teeth. A developmental radiograph of your child's jaw bones can help inform you of missing (or extra!) teeth.