baby teeth

The Life Circle of Baby Teeth

The day a baby’s first tooth pops through is a momentous occasion. More teeth will come over the next few years. After that, the process starts working in reverse — the baby teeth fall out! If you’re ever been fascinated (or a little perplexed) by that process, now’s the time to learn more about the life cycle of baby teeth.

What Is Baby Teeth?

Kids get their first set of teeth during infancy and toddlerhood. The teeth that poke through the gums during that time are known as baby teeth. They can also be called:

  • Primary teeth
  • Deciduous teeth
  • Milk teeth
  • Temporary teeth

Baby teeth don’t stick around forever, but they do set the stage for a person’s future oral health. Dental professionals usually recommend taking a baby to the dentist within six months of the first tooth. At home, parents can care for primary teeth by cleaning them daily with a damp bamboo toothbrush. Once the child turns two, they can add all-natural toothpaste to the routine.

How Long Do Baby Teeth Last?

Baby teeth may be around for five to 10 years, but it varies based on the tooth. In general, the first teeth to arrive are the first ones to leave. The incisors, for example, usually show up before the first birthday and fall out when kids are about six years old. The baby teeth toward the back of the mouth may not fall out until the junior high years.

Just because baby teeth don’t last forever doesn’t mean you can neglect them, though. Like adult teeth, primary teeth are susceptible to damage and decay. If the situation is serious enough, the teeth might need to be pulled. Since baby teeth serve as guides for where permanent teeth should come in, extracting them early could lead to spacing problems in the future.

Why Do We Lose Them?

Babies are born with little mouths. Primary teeth are sized to match. As humans grow, their jaws get bigger, and they have space for larger teeth. The baby teeth fall out to make way for the new set.

Not only are adult teeth bigger, but there are more of them. Kids have only 20 deciduous teeth, but a full set of permanent teeth includes 32 members. The oral-care habits formed during childhood, such as brushing and flossing, will carry over into adulthood and play an influential role in the health of those 32 teeth.

Can Adults Have Baby Teeth?

Yes, in some cases, people make it all the way to adulthood with a few of their original teeth. Molars, in particular, have a reputation for not always falling out. The correct term for this situation is “retained primary teeth.”

Keeping a few baby teeth isn’t usually a big deal. Sometimes, a dentist may need to intervene in order to keep your smile in top shape — for example, if there’s a permanent tooth under the gum that needs to get through. In other cases, though, there’s no adult tooth waiting to fill the space. As long as the baby tooth is healthy, extracting it might not be necessary.

Of course, there’s no way to predict whose baby teeth will stick around until adulthood. That uncertainty could serve as a good reminder to make natural tooth care a top priority, even from a very young age. The teeth you have in your early years may be with you for a long time to come.

Juliana Mejía Zuliani

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