All human have 2 sets of teeth in their lifetime, commonly known as milk teeth or primary dentition, and adult teeth or permanent dentition.The primary dentition consists of 20 milk teeth in total and starts to appear in the baby’s mouth at the age of 6 months old. It usually starts with the lower incisors, followed by the upper incisors, then the molars at the back of the mouth. There is a normal pattern of eruption of these teeth with exceptions of slight variation. All the milk teeth should be fully erupted by the age of 2.5 years old and these teeth will be used for speech, mastication and appearance till the adult teeth starts to appear at age 6 years old.
There exist normal spacings in between the milk teeth due to their small size and also to accommodate the larger adult teeth which will assume their positions later in life. Care of milk teeth is very important and cleaning should be carried out by the caregiver till the child is able to clean on his/her own. Even so, brushing should be supervised by an adult and good oral hygiene habits instilled in the child at early age.
Between the age of 6 and 12, the child will experience the exfoliation (shedding) of milk teeth and the eruption of new adult teeth, a period known as Mixed Dentition stage. At age 6, the permanent molar right at the back of the primary molar will erupt. This is followed by the exfoliation of the central/lateral incisors and the eruption of their successors (permanent central/lateral incisors) between the age of 7 to 8. During the exfoliation of the milk teeth, they will become loose as the adult tooth pushes through from beneath and there will be a short period where the milk teeth has fallen but the adult tooth had not fully erupt. This period of ?no teeth? may cause some embarrassment to the children and is also known as the ?Ugly Duckling? Stage. Some parents get frantic about shaky teeth and rush to the dentist to have them extracted. However, in most of the cases, it is not necessary as the shaky milk teeth will fall out on their own and the dental experience will cast a negative impact on the young minds.
From age 9 to 10 , the premolars and canines will erupt to replace the primary teeth. The permanent 2 nd molar will erupt at about age of 12 years. Sometimes, the appearance of the adult teeth may present with some slight crowding or malalignment of the teeth, which most of the time will straighten out on their own as the jaw grow in size. However, certain malalignment may warrant a consultation with the dentist to intervene and correct the bite.
As the adult teeth take their position in the mouth, they form tight contacts and cleaning of the teeth will involve not only brushing but interdental cleaning (such as flossing) as well. Including the wisdom teeth which will appear later at around 18 to 21 years of age, there should be 32 adult teeth in the permanent dentition and these teeth needs to be cared for as they are meant to last throughout one’s life. Teeth are an integral part of our life and we often take them for granted. We use them for functions like speech, eating and aesthetics so treasure them and they will serve you well.