Just like the rest of your body, your mouth goes through many changes throughout your infancy and into adulthood. The number of teeth you have changes, your mouth gets bigger, your teeth may be crooked or straight, and much more. The amount of care you give your teeth changes throughout the years as well as the technique you must use for avoiding tooth decay and gum disease. Find out how to care for baby teeth and adult teeth and how to have a healthy mouth throughout life!
Your Baby Teeth
Did you know that you have a different amount of baby teeth than you do adult teeth? There are only 20 baby teeth in an infant’s mouth that has all of their teeth. Some infants will have teeth come in one at a time, while others will get them in groups. The process of getting your baby teeth is known as “teething” and it can be quite a tough time for little ones. The teeth literally have to break through the gums as they come into the mouth, which is no small task. It can take months for the teething process to happen to the first tooth, and infants can continue to teeth up until age 3.
Some interesting facts about your baby teeth are:
- You have 20 baby teeth compared to an adult’s 32.
- These are sometimes referred to as the “deciduous teeth”, just like the deciduous tree that loses all its leaves.
- Most infants start to get teeth between 3 and 9 months. However, some won’t have teeth until well over a year.
- Very rarely, an infant will be born with teeth already.
- Another rare occurrence is not having teeth by age 3. If this happens, a dentist needs to definitely see your child for an evaluation.
Infant Oral Care
Another fact about the baby teeth is that they can decay, and they generally do a lot faster than the adult teeth. Infants are not able to care for their own dental health. It is something that is learned between ages 3 and 6. However, babies will still start getting teeth at only a few months old. That means it is up to parents to help take care of those baby teeth.
For your infant, make sure you are cleaning their gums after every feeding once they have a tooth. That delicate baby tooth is susceptible to decay as soon as it pops through the gums. Wipe the gums with a wet cloth or rag after each feeding and then make sure to brush the tooth (or teeth) twice a day. Infants will only need a rice-sized amount of ADA-approved toothpaste to brush their tooth. You will have to wipe out their mouth until they are big enough to understand spitting the toothpaste out. Make sure to clean the gums and teeth many times a day to avoid tooth decay (cavities) in your child’s mouth.
Around ages 5 or 6, your child will start to lose their teeth, and rapidly. Children lose their teeth in the order they came in. The front 2 bottom teeth will fall out first, followed by the top 2 teeth and so on through the back. The permanent will come in with the same order. Children have baby teeth for several years as their mouth and jaws grow larger. The teeth space out, and that space allows more room for 32 adult teeth to come into the mouth comfortably. If a child doesn’t have enough space in their mouth for a full set of adult teeth, they will need child orthodontics to help widen their palate to receive new teeth.
As an adult, your teeth will be larger than the baby teeth. You will actually only have 28 teeth, plus the 4 wisdom teeth that will likely have to be removed. These won’t come in until ages 17-21. Adults will have teeth that look different that fall into categories of incisors, canine teeth, premolars and molars. Incisors are the front 4 teeth on top and bottom, and canine teeth are the pointy teeth. Your premolars are the ones a bit larger than the canines, and your molars are the largest and located in the back of your mouth. Unlike the baby teeth, your teeth that are permanent will stick around until the end of your life in most cases. That means, you must care for them even more diligently than you did the baby teeth, which were only temporary.
Caring for Adult Teeth
This may not come as a surprise, but you have to care for your adult teeth much like you do your baby teeth. Just because your teeth change in size and number, doesn’t mean that the cleaning regimen changes. The American Dental Association recommends that every person—infant, teen and adult alike—brush their teeth at least twice a day. Brushing after every meal will help you keep your teeth healthier for longer, as it reduces plaque buildup that causes decay. Plaque is made from sugars in your food and drink mixing with decay-causing bacteria in your mouth. This substance decays and erodes your teeth over time unless you physically brush and floss it away.
Make sure you are also flossing at least once a day, if not morning and night. This removes plaque between the teeth. Scraping the teeth as you floss removes the stuck-on stuff. Using fluoride products can help strengthen your teeth against decay, while mouthwash can kill decay-causing bacteria. However, besides brushing and flossing, visiting the dentist is the most important way to stay free of tooth decay and oral health problems. Visit us at least twice a year for comprehensive exams and dental cleanings to check for disease. Doing so—no matter your age—will ensure that you keep your baby teeth and adult teeth intact during your life. If it’s been awhile since your last visit to the dentist, call Niles Family Dentistry today at (720) 744-0001 to schedule your appointment!