Baby Teeth Vs. Adult Teeth

Baby Teeth vs Adult Teeth

Have you ever compared your adult teeth to a child’s baby teeth? Unless you have, you might be surprised to find that you have a different amount of teeth. Baby teeth are smaller, fewer in number and are only around for a few years. This directly contrasts the adult teeth that are more numerous, larger, stronger and last for many decades. Find out the differences between your baby teeth and adult teeth and why you only have the baby teeth for a few years!

Let’s Talk About Teeth

Did you know that your mouth has a total of 20 baby teeth (also called primary teeth), 10 on the upper jaw and 10 on the lower?  A full set of adult teeth has an additional 12 teeth – six more on both the upper and lower jaws.

Between the ages of 10-12, the first and second premolars (bicuspids) erupt followed by your third molars (wisdom teeth) between the ages of 17-21. Let’s break down a little easier for you this way:

Number of teeth: A child has 20 baby teeth, which include:

  • Four lateral incisors
  • Four central incisors
  • Four second molars
  • Four first molars
  • Four cuspids (canine teeth)

As children grow older, they will have 32 permanent teeth, including:

  • Four third molars (wisdom teeth)
  • Four second molars (12-year molars)
  • Four first molars (six-year molars)
  • Four central incisors
  • Four lateral incisors
  • Four cuspids
  • Four first bicuspids
  • Four second bicuspids

Primary Teeth Matter

Because baby teeth eventually fall out, some are under the misconception that they aren’t important. Developing healthy oral care habits when they are young is an essential part of building a foundation of oral wellness for your child.  Purchase toothpastes and toothbrushes, that are specifically designed for children up to two years old. Teaching children younger than two years old not to swallow toothpaste can be tricky so by purchasing a toddler-safe toothpaste, you can have the peace of mind that your child is protected should they swallow some–a common thing to have happen during the training years!

Protect Gum Tissue and Adult Teeth

Another reason why it is important to baby your baby teeth is that they serve to protect gum tissue from harm that can happen when chewing food.  Baby teeth that fall out too soon–either from neglect/decay or injury–make your child more susceptible to infection of the exposed gums or putting the permanent teeth (below the gums) at risk for development issues.

If a baby tooth isn’t significantly loose, the tooth should remain in the child’s mouth until it can be confirmed on x-ray that there is an adult tooth ready to erupt right behind it.  (If there is a choking hazard present, the tooth must be pulled and Dr. Niles can assist with that!)

Baby Teeth Act as Space Savers for Permanent Teeth

One of the essential roles of primary teeth is to encourage the adult, permanent teeth to erupt in their proper positions. They act as spacers until the permanent teeth are ready to erupt.

Primary, or baby teeth, hold the space in the jaws required for the correct development of the permanent, adult teeth.  Normally, under healthy, accident-free conditions, a baby tooth will remain in your child’s mouth until the permanent tooth underneath it is almost through the gum surface. The roots of the baby tooth disintegrate when a permanent tooth is ready to erupt allowing the baby tooth to loosen and fall out. If a baby tooth is lost before the permanent tooth was ready to erupt it can cause spatial problems for the adult teeth.  Sometimes it is necessary for a dentist to use a dental space maintainer device to fill the place of the primary tooth until the permanent tooth is ready to emerge.

How Can You Tell the Difference Between Adult and Baby Teeth

If you find it difficult to tell the difference between adult or baby teeth, here are some helpful tips:

  • Color: Baby teeth are often whiter than permanent teeth.
  • Rougher edges: Baby teeth are smooth on the bottom and permanent teeth have a jagged bottom edge.  Fun fact: the jagged edge of new permanent teeth are called mamelons. Mamelons assist in the eruption of your child’s permanent teeth by allowing them to break through the gums easier.

Call for a Consultation

Call our office for a consultation and to schedule an infant dental exam.  Dr. Niles is a family dentist in Niwot, Colorado, with convenient access to the communities of Boulder, Longmont, Lafayette, and Louisville.  Niles Family Dentistry offers state-of-the-art family dentistry and cosmetic dentistry.  Call for your appointment today at (720) 744-0001. We look forward to meeting you and your family!

Ashley Niles

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