We all remember the thrill of losing a tooth during childhood. At first, it has a slight give to it. Then it becomes looser. Eventually, you play with it so much in your mouth it becomes impossible to ignore. Finally, it falls out (maybe with a little coaxing).
Having lost tooth after tooth – and perhaps finding a couple of dollars under the pillow the next morning – many never gave much thought about the changes occurring in their mouths at the time. Here are some of the differences between baby teeth and adult teeth.
Primary Teeth Types
A child's mouth, divided into the upper teeth and the lower teeth, start developing in the front of both sections with the central incisors. The lower ones come in first, anywhere from six to 10 months, whereas the upper set emerges between eight and 12 months. The central incisors tend to fall out between ages six and seven, according to the American Dental Association (ADA) Mouth Healthy site.
Adjacent to the central incisors are the lateral incisors. The upper laterals (nine to 13 months) appear before the lower laterals (10-13 months), and shed themselves between ages seven and eight. On both sides of the laterals are the canines (cuspids), and the uppers (16-22 months) come in before the lowers (17-23 months). Both sets fall out from the ages of nine to 12.
The last eight teeth to appear are the first and second molars – four of each. The upper firsts can take longer to emerge (13-19 months), whereas the lower firsts start later and finish earlier (14-18 months). Both sets shed between ages nine and 11. The second molars complete the set and arrive last: Both sets erupt right around two years of age (lower 23-31 months and upper 25-33 months) and are also the last ones to fall out between the ages of 10 and 12.
Baby Teeth vs. Adult Teeth
The mouth has a total of 20 baby teeth (also called primary teeth), 10 of which are on the upper jaw and the other 10 on the lower. A full set of adult teeth, on the other hand, contains an additional 12 teeth – six more each on the upper and lower jaws. The new teeth are the first and second premolars, also referred to as the first and second bicuspids; and the third molars, more commonly known as the wisdom teeth. The first and second bicuspids erupt between ages 10 and 12. Wisdom teeth don't erupt until ages 17 to 21.
Caring for Baby Teeth
Despite the fact that primary teeth will eventually shed, it's still important to develop a habit of proper oral care for your little one. Use My First Colgate™ toothpaste and toothbrushes, which are specifically designed for children up to two years old. The toothpaste is also safe if swallowed, a common tendency in young children.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) offers some great additional tips for oral care with babies. Just be sure to use an infant toothbrush at bath time to clean your baby's gums before teeth first appear. When they do erupt, clean them at least twice a day with that soft-bristled, kid-friendly toothbrush. And of course, remember to bring your child to see a pediatric dentist before his or her first birthday.