When it comes to a child’s development, parents can have a number of pressing questions. While when should a child take his first steps or say her first words probably ranks at the top of any parent’s list, when should a child start to develop his first teeth is also an important question that needs answering.

While you might think that the temporary nature of a child’s baby teeth make them less important than permanent teeth, baby teeth actually play a vital role in a child’s oral health development.

In addition to acting as placeholders for a child’s adult teeth, baby teeth help a child speak and eat. If your child should lose her baby teeth too early, his adult teeth could form crooked or crowded, requiring the need for braces when older. Missing baby teeth can also result in your child developing a speech impediment or experience difficulty eating once she switches to solid foods.

To help you understand what to expect when it comes to the development of your child’s teeth, here are a few teething facts.

Early Stages of Development

A child’s teeth actually begin developing in the fetus. To help ensure a child’s teeth develop properly, mothers need to make sure they maintain a balanced and nutritional diet. An ideal diet for expecting mothers should include plenty of vitamin D, vitamin C, phosphorus, and calcium. Mothers should also avoid taking certain types of medication that can damage the health of a child’s teeth in embryo, such as tetracycline.

There are four primary stages of development for teeth:

  • The initial stage of tooth development begins at around six months in the fetus when the basic structure of the tooth begins to form.
  • Near the third or fourth month of gestation the hard tissue that surrounds the teeth begin to form.
  • Once your child is born, the next stage occurs between four and 12 months as teeth actually begin to emerge through the gum line.
  • Finally, a child will begin to lose baby teeth

When Does a Child’s Baby Teeth Form?

While the development of each child will vary, baby teeth begin to break through the gum line between the ages of four and 12 months. The eruption of baby teeth generally follows these guidelines:

  • The first tooth usually to emerge is a central incisor located in either the middle, front, or lower jaw. The second tooth to form is usually a second central incisor located along the lower jaw.
  • Next, the four upper incisors generally form.
  • Once the above teeth have formed, a child’s first four molars will form followed by the two remaining incisors.
  • Next the cuspids, or the pointed teeth, form.
  • The final baby teeth to form are the four second molars.

The teeth located along the upper jaw usually begin to emerge one to two months following the same tooth on the lower jaw. A total of 20 baby teeth will form. Usually about one tooth will erupt a month once the teeth have started to form. It isn’t unusual for space to appear between all of a child’s baby teeth. This leaves room for larger permanent teeth to form.

When Does a Child’s Permanent Teeth Form?

Most children will start to lose their baby teeth around the age of six. The first teeth a child will lose are usually the central incisors. This is then followed shortly by the development of a child’s first permanent molars. Children will generally lose their last baby at the age of 12. There are a total of 32 permanent adult or permanent teeth.