While parents can buy books that help to explain their child’s development, kids unfortunately don’t come with instructions. Because of the shear volume of material at hand, parents can often struggle to identify each important benchmark as their child grows from infancy into toddlerhood and beyond. As a result, many parents pay more attention to the more glamorous milestones, such as when kids should take their first steps or say their first word, rather than some of the more mundane like when their baby teeth should develop or when they switch to eating solid foods.
So, what’s the difference between “baby teeth” and permanent teeth?
Between the ages of six to ten months, most infants will start to develop their baby teeth. Typically, the first teeth to develop are they central incisors (front middle teeth), and then subsequent teeth begin to develop on either side of those first teeth, making their way back to the second molars. By the time a child turns three, most of his baby teeth should have developed.
The process of a child’s oral development then begins to work backwards around the age of seven. The central incisors tend to be the first baby teeth to fall out and be replaced by permanent teeth. Because of the late development of wisdom teeth, it’s not until the age of 21 that most people have all of their permanent teeth in place.
Importance of Baby Teeth
It might be tempting to think that because a child’s baby teeth eventually fall out and are replaced, their health doesn’t really matter to a child’s long-term oral health. However, baby teeth play a much more important role than many parents may assume.
Baby teeth act as placeholders for permanent teeth and help to guide them into position during their development. When baby teeth fall out prematurely as the result of decay or disease, adult teeth can form crooked or misaligned. This can cause children to develop misaligned bites that require orthodontic treatment later in life.
Baby teeth also play an important role in a child’s speech development and ability to chew. Premature tooth loss can impact the way kids learns to speak and can negatively affect their eating habits. Children who learn to eat by compensating for missing teeth can place unwanted stress on their jaw and remaining teeth, which can create further oral health problems as they grow older. Children who develop a speech impediment due to premature missing baby teeth may require the help of a speech pathologist to correct an issue that could of easily been avoided.
Different Kinds of Teeth
Teeth look and feel different because they are designed to perform different jobs in your mouth.
Located in the very front are the incisors, which are the sharpest teeth in the mouth. (Picture a vampire and you’ll know which teeth are the incisors) Incisors are designed to cut, shape and shovel the foods we eat.
Flanking your incisors at the corners of the mouth are canine teeth, which are designed for tearing and grasping food. Because of the stress we place on our canines when eating, these teeth have the longest roots of any in the mouth.
Just behind the canines you’ll find the premolars, which have more of a flat surface designed for crushing foods. Finally, the molars are the last teeth towards the back of the mouth. Molars are much larger than premolars and feature bigger, wider chewing surfaces because they are designed to grind food into smaller pieces.
It’s important that a child develop each of their different types of teeth correctly to avoid any future oral health problems down the road. If you have any questions about how your child’s teeth are suppose to develop, feel free to ask either Drs. Mo or G the next time you’re in the Must Love Kids office.