“From the gummy smiles of newborns to toothy grins of adolescents, dental development is a fascinating journey that every child goes through. As parents, we often wonder when our little ones will start teething or lose their first baby tooth. Understanding the different stages of dental development can help us anticipate and address potential oral health issues early on.
Introduction to dental development in children
Dental development in children begins before birth and continues until around age 21. The teeth first begin to form during the 6th week of gestational development. A baby’s teeth are known as natal teeth if they erupt within the first 30 days after birth. Most children have a full set of 20 primary teeth by the time they are 3 years old.
The primary teeth start to erupt around 6 months of age and all should be present by 3 years old. By around age 6, the primary teeth start to loosen and fall out, making room for the adult teeth. The permanent teeth start to come in around ages 6-7, with the molars being last to erupt around ages 12-13. By age 21, all 32 of the permanent teeth should be present.
It is important for parents to take their child for regular dental checkups starting at around age 1, or when the first tooth appears. This will help ensure that the child’s teeth are healthy and developing properly.
The 7 stages of dental development in children
Stage 1: Primary teeth eruption
During the first stage of dental development, the primary teeth begin to erupt through the gums. This process usually begins around six months of age and is complete by about three years old. All 20 primary teeth should be present by the time a child reaches 36 months old.
Stage 2: Eruption of the permanent teeth
During the second stage of dental development, the permanent teeth begin to erupt. This process usually starts around age six and is complete by age 12. All of the primary teeth have typically fallen out by this point.
The eruption of the permanent teeth is a gradual process. The first teeth to erupt are typically the central incisors, followed by the lateral incisors. The canine teeth (or “eye teeth”) and premolars come next, and finally the molars.
It’s not unusual for children to experience some discomfort during this stage, as their mouths adjust to the new teeth. Some common symptoms include gum tenderness, tooth sensitivity, and mild jaw pain. These can all be alleviated with over-the-counter pain relief medication if necessary.
Stage 3: Root resorption and root replacement
During the third stage of dental development, the roots of the primary teeth begin to resorb or dissolve. This process is replaced by the formation of the roots of the permanent teeth. The permanent teeth typically begin to erupt around age six, but this can vary from child to child. Once the erupted tooth has reached its final position, the root resorption process is complete.
Stage 4: Tooth shedding and tooth emergence
At around six to seven years old, children will start to lose their primary teeth, a process which is known as shedding. This usually begins with the two upper front teeth, followed by the two lower front teeth. Children will then continue to lose teeth in a certain order until they have all 20 of their primary teeth.
In terms of tooth emergence, the first permanent molars usually come in around six years old. The rest of the permanent teeth will gradually emerge over the next few years until around age 21.
Stage 5: Enamel mineralization and enamel maturation
During the fifth stage of dental development, enamel mineralization and enamel maturation occur. Enamel mineralization is the process by which minerals are deposited in the enamel layer of the tooth. This process begins after the tooth has erupted, and continues until the tooth is fully grown. Enamel maturation is the process by which the enamel layer of the tooth becomes harder and more resistant to wear. This process also begins after the tooth has erupted, and continues until the tooth is fully grown.
Stage 6: Dental caries, periodontal diseases, and malocclusion
The sixth stage of dental development coincides with the onset of puberty. Around this time, permanent teeth begin to erupt and the roots of baby teeth start to resorb. This can lead to problems such as dental caries, periodontal diseases, and malocclusion.
Dental caries is a bacterial infection that damages the hard tissue of the teeth. It is the most common chronic disease in children and adolescents and can lead to pain, tooth loss, and infections.
Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums and supporting structures of the teeth. If left untreated, it can destroy the gum tissue and bone that support the teeth. Periodontal disease is a leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
Malocclusion is a misalignment of the teeth or jaws. It can interfere with chewing and speaking, and can also contribute to gum disease and tooth decay. Treatment may be necessary to correct severe cases.
Stage 7: The Full Set
At the seventh stage, all of the baby teeth have fallen out and been replaced by adult teeth. This stage usually occurs between the ages of 12 and 13.
The first tooth usually appears around 6 months of age, but it is not unusual for the first tooth to appear a little later or earlier. By the time your child is 3 years old, they will have a full set of 20 primary teeth.
If you are concerned that your child is not getting enough fluoride, talk to your dentist or healthcare provider. You can also ask your local water supplier if your water has enough fluoride for dental health.
Baby teeth are important for several reasons. They help guide adult teeth into place, aid in chewing and speaking, and maintain space in the jaws for adult teeth. Additionally, healthy baby teeth promote good dental hygiene habits that will last a lifetime.