Everybody will lose teeth as they grow from babies into adults. While babies are born with no teeth, as they develop they will get child’s teeth, or ‘milk teeth’. These teeth help a child to eat solids and grind, crush or tear foods just as an adult does – but before their adult teeth erupt.
The following are some common questions about milk teeth, which people also call ‘baby teeth’ or ‘primary teeth’ – dentists call them ‘deciduous teeth’.
Milk Teeth FAQs and Useful Information
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Why do milk teeth fall out?
It is primarily a matter of space. The jaw and skull of a child are very small, so they need bigger and stronger teeth to chew properly and have a proportional face shape once they grow up.
Children losing teeth is essential for things like chewing, but also talking. Many times when a child cannot say certain words or sounds, it is partly due to the shape of their mouth and the teeth changing. This is one of the reasons for the classic ‘baby talk’ way of children speaking.
When do milk teeth start to fall out?
Milk teeth start to fall out when the jaw begins to grow. A child’s teeth are not meant to be permanent – they are temporary, and no milk tooth will end up as a permanent tooth. The milk teeth can start erupting at just 5 months of age, which can be a painful issue for breastfeeding mothers.
The usual range for milk teeth erupting is from 5 to 12 months. Milk teeth continue to develop throughout toddlerhood and have the same oral hygiene requirements as adult teeth. Proper brushing of a baby tooth can increase the chances of better oral health in a permanent tooth.
At what age do milk teeth fall out?
Most children start to lose their teeth from around 3 until around 12 years of age. As a child reaches the end of the toddler phase of development the teeth are lost gradually. The typical order a primary tooth will fall out of the mouth is as follows:
- Incisors – 6 to 8 years old
- First molars – 9 to 11 years old
- Canines – 9 to 12 years old
- Second molars – 10 to 12 years old
Each primary tooth tends to fall out in the same order as they erupt, which happens between 1 to 3 years old on average. There may be some slight differentiation in ages and order, but this is normally not an issue and should not be a cause for concern for the child or parent.
How many milk teeth should a child have?
Most people have 20 milk teeth. However, there is a condition known as hyperdontia, where a person has more teeth than they need. Hyperdontia results in what doctors call ‘supernumerary teeth’, which can cause complications. However, it is much more likely for people to have supernumerary adult teeth than milk teeth. In any case, as the milk teeth fall out, having more (or even less) is not usually likely to affect the child’s development in any way.
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Do all of your milk teeth fall out?
Yes. All of your primary teeth are temporary. You have 20 primary teeth before the development of 32 permanent teeth. Your wisdom teeth will join your permanent teeth at around 17 to 25 years old, but there is no milk tooth for them to replace – they will erupt independently.
Even though all of your milk teeth will probably fall out by 13 or 14 years old, some milk teeth can linger further into your teenage years. In this case, you may require a tooth extraction if the old primary tooth is blocking the eruption of the new permanent tooth. In most cases, the tooth will eventually fall out naturally. The presence of remaining milk teeth usually happens at the back of the mouth, so this problem is not likely to be visible in daily life.
In rare cases, adults may have milk teeth remaining that have not fallen out by themselves – these will typically require extraction by a dentist.
Which milk teeth fall out first?
The milk teeth will usually fall out in the order that they first erupt in a child’s mouth. The central incisor is typically the first to erupt and the among the first to fall out – the incisor should fall out at around 6 to 8 years old.
If a child’s teeth do not fall out in order this is not a big problem, as the replacement teeth will come in soon after they fall out – no matter what the order. Some people’s teeth have just happened to fall out slightly out of order. A child who experiences an accident or injury affecting the mouth might also see the affected tooth or teeth fall out sooner than normal.
When should milk teeth be seen by a dentist?
You should first see a dentist when the milk teeth of a child start to erupt – this will give the dentist a chance to check everything is developing normally. Many people grow up with dental phobias, so talking a child to a dentist regularly from an early age can help them get comfortable with this essential habit, without any feelings of nervousness.
Summary and How to Book an Appointment
Losing milk teeth is a normal part of development, and a child usually has 20 of them. Milk teeth will erupt between 5 months and 12 months and continue to do so until around 3 years old. The milk teeth then begin to fall out between 3 and 6 years old in most cases, with the process finishing at around 12 years old.
After all 32 permanent teeth replace the milk teeth, the wisdom teeth develop from 17 to 24; these do not replace any primary tooth. You can book an appointment with a dentist for a checkup on a child’s milk teeth, permanent teeth or another dental concern at our Brighton and Hove-based clinic. Please feel free to get in touch with us to book or for more information.
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