About Your Teeth: From Birth to Adulthood
Baby or Primary Teeth
By the time a baby is merely six or eight months old, he or she will begin getting his or her first teeth. It can take up to three years before all of a baby's first teeth come in (erupt). Generally, the first baby teeth to erupt are the front teeth, or central incisors, while the last baby teeth to erupt are usually the second molars. When all of the baby teeth erupt, a child will have 20 teeth, each of different shapes and sizes.
Form and Function
Teeth are different in size, shape, and location so that they can perform different functions. Although the primary function of teeth is to help you chew and to speak clearly, your teeth also help give your face its form and shape.
What different teeth do:
- The front teeth are called incisors, because they help you incise or bite food.
- The eye teeth, called cuspids or canines, are the longest-rooted teeth in the mouth, and are strong to help you tear food.
- Your molars have flat chewing surfaces to help you grind up your food before swallowing.
- Your teeth also give you the ability to smile—one of a person's most notable features.
Shortly after the baby teeth come in, the process begins again with the eruption of permanent teeth. As permanent teeth come in, baby teeth fall out. The form and function of the permanent teeth remain the same as those of the baby teeth.
In most children, permanent teeth begin to erupt at about six years old. As the permanent teeth push up into the mouth, they cause pressure on the roots of the baby teeth, causing those roots to dissolve. This will cause the baby teeth to become loose and eventually fall out. The first permanent teeth to erupt are usually the lower central incisors and the first molars. The permanent teeth then continue to erupt into their final location in the mouth.
Secondary or permanent teeth continue coming until the last teeth, the third molars or wisdom teeth, have a chance to come in, usually between the ages of 17 and 21. However, wisdom teeth often have to be removed due to the fact that there is not enough space in the jaw for them to erupt into a functional location.
Permanent Teeth: Your Only Set
Your permanent teeth need to last a lifetime. They're the last set of natural teeth that you'll ever have, so it's important to take care of them from the start. The basics of good oral hygiene are simple: brush with a soft toothbrush, floss regularly, and use a fluoride toothpaste. Seeing a dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings will help you treat any developing problem at an early stage.
Remember, your teeth are meant to last a lifetime, but they do not come with a warranty. So if you want your smile to last for a lifetime, take good care of your teeth.