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Tooth Development in Children

If you’re a first-time parent, you’re constantly becoming aware of new milestones to watch out for in your child’s development. As your baby starts growing into a toddler, be sure to watch out for tooth development! As your child’s body grows and their mouth starts changing, you can keep checkpoints in oral development to determine when to start brushing their teeth and schedule their first pediatric dental appointment. Learn more below about how teeth form and how you can keep your child’s mouth healthy in the integral months and years of baby tooth development.

Initial Tooth Formation

Though you won’t be able to see them for many months, the foundation for tooth formation actually begins in the womb. Before your child is born, embryonic cells (or “tooth buds”) for baby teeth form underneath the gums, and the tooth buds for permanent teeth will also be in place before your child makes their arrival into the world.

After birth, you child’s primary teeth will continue development within their jaw before they become visible to you.

When Will My Child Grow Their First Teeth?

Baby teeth are expected to start pushing through the gums when your child is around six months old. The primary teeth generally appear in the following order: primary central incisors, lateral incisors, first molars, canines, and second molars. This process will likely span from the time they are six months old until they are 24 months old. By the time they are around two and a half, your child will likely have 20 baby teeth.

Throughout this process, it’s important to bring your child in for periodic dental appointments, even if all of their teeth haven’t grown in yet. The teething process can open up your child’s gums to more pain and infection if their mouth isn’t kept properly clean, which is why you should start brushing your child’s teeth with a soft children’s toothbrush as soon as their first tooth arrives. Scheduling a dental appointment as soon as your child starts growing teeth will ensure their tooth development is on track for a healthy mouth full of pearly whites.

What to Expect After My Child’s Baby Teeth Grow In

As soon as your child has a mouth full of primary teeth, continue taking them to dental appointments every six months to ensure everything is going well. Your children’s baby teeth will fall out eventually, it’s true, but that doesn’t make it any less important for them to be well taken care of until the permanent teeth grow in. Baby teeth “set a path” for permanent teeth to grow into, and if the baby teeth fall out prematurely due to poor dental health, the permanent teeth underneath may grow in earlier than they should, crooked, or unhealthy. You should be following the same guidelines for caring for permanent teeth to take care of baby teeth before the permanent teeth grow in.

After all of the baby teeth grow in, you may notice small gaps between each or most of the teeth—this is completely normal. Most children have gaps between their primary teeth to save a space for the permanent teeth to grow in later, which will ideally fill in the spaces you are seeing with the baby teeth right now.

When Do Permanent Molars Show Up?

The first permanent teeth (four molars in the back of your child’s mouth) can start growing in as early as age five. These may initially be overlooked by you or your child unless they experience pain as the new teeth emerge, as no baby teeth will fall out to make room for these—they should appear behind the last primary teeth in your child’s mouth.

When Will My Child Start Losing Teeth?

Around the same time your child’s first permanent molars arrive, the central incisors will generally begin to loosen and eventually fall out. This can start as early as four or five years old or as late as seven or eight. Be sure to check in with your child’s dentist often to confirm the tooth growing and losing process is going well; as long as your dentist isn’t concerned, there is no need to worry about a child that is losing teeth a little later than their peers. Over the next several years, your child’s remaining baby teeth will fall out individually and be replaced by permanent teeth, and they will also grow four more permanent molars additionally.

The last to grow in are wisdom teeth, as most adults remember, because they typically don’t grow in until between the ages of 17 and 21. Some people will never grow in wisdom teeth, and not everyone will have four of them. Your dentist will keep an eye on wisdom tooth formation with regular x-rays to determine whether or not their growth may threaten the health and positioning of the other permanent teeth.
As your child moves through the cycle of growing their first teeth to losing their last baby teeth, be sure to consult their dentist if you have any questions! If your child is beginning to grow teeth and you’re ready to schedule your child’s first appointment, contact the professionals at Pediatric Dentistry of Central Iowa. We have offices located conveniently in Ankeny and Des Moines and are happy to answer any questions you have about your child’s dental health.