From baby to adult teeth...what happens?
Like most adults, I could not remember exactly when my first tooth dropped out and how long it took for all my baby teeth to change to adult ones. Now that I’m in the dental profession, I have learnt what is the norm and the natural development of our teeth. I have encountered many parents who have concerns regarding the normal dental development for their child. Therefore, I would like to share some information here with parents/caregivers on teeth development from when the first baby tooth erupts and all the way till the eruption of the wisdom teeth. I would also like to point out that the following information is what is considered the average norm. This means in some individuals, there may be a significant delay or advance in eruption pattern, lack of certain teeth, extra teeth and so on. If in doubt, please do check with your child’s dentist.
How many baby (also known as deciduous or primary) teeth do we have?
How many adult (also known as permanent or secondary) dentition?
In the normal dentition of a human, there are 20 baby teeth and 32 adult teeth (yes, these 32 teeth include the 4 wisdom teeth). In normal circumstances, all the 20 baby teeth will fall out and be replaced by adult teeth. This means there are 12 adult teeth which erupt in the mouth without actually succeeding a baby tooth, so these 12 adult teeth will erupt in the mouth only once and last a lifetime with the individual. These 12 teeth are the adult molars. The 8 baby molars will be replaced by the 8 premolars. Therefore in the primary dentition, there are no teeth known as premolars.
The eruption timeline
The first baby tooth to erupt is usually the lower incisor which is at the front near the midline. This tooth erupts at the age of 6 months old. Sometimes, it can be earlier or later in certain individuals. Other times, the child may be born with the tooth already erupted at birth…this is what we would call a natal tooth. A neonatal tooth erupts within the first month of birth. Neonatal/natal tooth are usually part of the baby dentition so parents who request the removal of this type of tooth must understand that the child may then have one less baby tooth in the set of baby teeth after the extraction. The eruption of the complete baby dentition will last from 6 months old to 2.5 - 3 years old.
The first tooth to fall out would then be the lower baby incisor and this occurs at the average age of 6 years old. As mentioned before, some children may experience it earlier at 5 years of age while others may experience it later at about 7 years of age. The last baby tooth to fall out would be a baby molar at the back of the mouth and that is usually at the age of 12 years old. This means your child will experience baby teeth shedding periodically from 6 to 12 years old.
Eruption milestones in a normal developing dentition