Answer your kids’ dental questions with confidence!
As kids get older, they ask lots of questions. Though many of these questions can feel overwhelming and poorly timed, it’s essential to know that these questions are healthy and a critical part of childhood development. Starting around age three, kids tend to ask many “why” questions.
They also ask things, like “Why does it rain?” “How do birds fly?” And as they get older, those questions get a bit more complicated: “Why is the sky blue?” “How much salt is in the ocean?” “Where do babies come from?” Don’t worry; we’ll let you answer that last one.
But kids also ask another common question: “How many teeth do I have?” And that question, we can help you answer.
How many teeth do I have?
So, parents, now is the time to turn the reading over to your child. Let them read some of these fun facts for themselves if they can. And if they’re not yet readers, perhaps now is the time to settle in for some story-telling, especially for those young fact-searchers in your household. We’ll start by helping your child understand the glaring question: “How many teeth do I have?”
Kids have more teeth than they realize. Their baby ones start coming in when they are babies, usually around their first birthday. Before those teeth erupt from the gums, they hibernate, like bears, until they are ready to come out. And over time, kids will have a total of 20 baby teeth! Ten of those will be on the top of the mouth, and the other ten will be on the bottom. All baby pearly whites should be in place by age three.
Which baby teeth come in first?
Did you know that teeth have a specific order in which they come in?
- First up are the bottom incisors, also known as the bottom front teeth. These usually come in when babies are just five or seven months old.
- Second are the top incisors, which are the top front teeth. These ones come in around age six to eight months.
- Third on the list is the top lateral incisors. We know this is a bit of a tongue-twister, so think of these teeth as the ones on both sides of the top front teeth. You’ll see these when babies are nine to 11 months of age.
- Next come the bottom lateral incisors, which come in on both sides of the bottom front ones. These can sometimes come in at the same time as the top lateral incisors, when babies are 10 to 12 months.
- Fifth on the list is the first molars, the back ones, that help kids chew their food. These ones come in a few months after a child’s first birthday, around 12 to 16 months old.
- The canines are next. These canines aren’t your furry friend. The canine teeth are between the lateral incisors and molars. These come in around 16 to 20 months of age.
- And finally, the second molars come in around 20 to 30 months, or right about when a child celebrates their second birthday.
Most teeth come in when a kid is two and a half years old. Now, it might not be time to have a birthday party, but the team at Staley Dental thinks all those ones coming in is definitely cause for celebration!
When do they fall out and why?
Another common question we get from our young patients is “When do my teeth fall out and why?” And this is an excellent question because the answer is significant. The fact is baby ones start to get wiggly and loose around age six and sometimes age seven.
- The first baby teeth to fall out are typically the two bottom front teeth, those bottom incisors that come in first.
- Next to fall out are the top front teeth, the top incisors.
- The lateral incisors, first molars, canines, and second molars fall out next.
For most kids, the baby teeth will stay in place until the adult ones underneath want to come out. When those adult ones underneath start to push upward or downward toward the gums, those baby ones start to wiggle out, ready to say “Hasta la vista, baby!” But sometimes, baby teeth can come out before the adult ones are ready. This can happen because of an accident or because of tooth decay. So, taking care of your baby teeth by brushing, flossing, and rinsing with kids’ mouthwash every day is super important. And wearing a mouth guard during sports can also help keep those baby teeth in until it is their time to fall out.
But the remaining question is “Why do my baby teeth fall out?” We think of it this way: kids grow into adults. But teeth don’t actually grow. In fact, your adult ones are already full-grown when they come in. It’s kind of crazy when you think about it; those adult ones are actually there all along in a baby, just hiding and waiting for their time to come out. But because kids actually grow into adults, they need bigger ones to chew more food and speak. Since teeth don’t grow, new ones are needed. So really, those baby ones are just placeholders, making room in the mouth until the adult ones are ready to say, “Hi! We’re here!”
How do I take care of them?
We’re so glad you asked this question. And thankfully, baby and adult teeth can be cared for in almost the same way. The only difference is that parents need to help little kids care for their teeth when they are babies and toddlers. But once a kid is about six or seven, they should be old enough to be trusted to take care of their teeth on their own. Caring for your teeth is a big part of growing up!
- Make sure that Mom, Dad, or your caregiver takes you to your pediatric dentist every six months for a tooth cleaning and oral examination.
- Brushing your teeth is critical for your teeth’s health. And if you don’t know how to brush them, now is a good time for your parents to show you. They should be brushed twice a day for two minutes at a time, using a soft-bristled toothbrush. Parents can play a two-minute toothbrushing song if it feels like hard work to count for two minutes with that toothbrush in your mouth.
- Floss between all your teeth at bedtime (and after meals when possible) to loosen food particles that have become stuck between the teeth and gums.
- Rinse with a kid-friendly mouthwash after brushing and flossing. Mouthwash helps rinse those loosened food particles away and keep your breath fresh.
Parents are the key to helping kids have healthy teeth.
Now that your kids know the answer to their looming question “How many teeth do I have?” it’s time to make sure their oral health is a priority (if it wasn’t already). Start by requesting an appointment with your kids’ dentist for their six-month dental cleaning and oral examination. Regular visits to the dentist and good oral care at home are the key to maintaining healthy teeth.