Understanding how teeth grow

  • Posted on: Apr 20 2017

The symptoms of a teething baby are no mystery. Afterall, screaming, excessive drool, and lots of crying for are hard to miss. Something similar can be said when it comes to getting permanent teeth: baby teeth fall out, and then, one day, new ones are just there to replace them. But the scientific details behind these oral changes are a little less obvious. Unless you’ve attended dental school, teeth can be somewhat of a mystery, and, really, just something to take for granted as always being there. We find that many patients are curious about how teeth grow. While we’re always happy to discuss this process and other tooth-related questions in greater detail during a general appointment in any of our New York clinics, here’s a quick breakdown of the tooth lifecycle.

The beginnings

Teeth start to develop in the womb; that’s one of the reasons why it is important for pregnant women to maintain a healthy diet with calcium and vitamins, and to avoid certain medications, like tetracycline, which can damage tooth development. Everyone is born with teeth — they just don’t start to come to the surface until a baby is between six and 12 months old. At that point, baby teeth will be pushed to the surface, breaking through the gums in that painful process we know as teething. By the time a child is three years old, a full set of these “milk teeth” should be in place and stay for a few years to help with biting, chewing, talking, and more.

The second stage

As a child ages, a new set of fully developed teeth starts to push its way to the surface, moving baby teeth and causing them to fall out. Sometimes, these new teeth can grown behind or in front of a baby tooth, but eventually the originals will be displaced (and, in some households, can be slipped under the pillow for the tooth fairy to collect). This loss and replacement process can take several years to complete, and, although all kids are different, it should wrap up before a child enters middle school. This is a great time to really stress the importance of oral hygiene and dental care to children. They should be having regular check-ups and X-rays to look for any tooth issues.

Growth continues

As teenage years approach, additional growth will take place in the form of wisdom teeth. Situated far in the back of the mouth, these late erupters can cause more problems than they can solve. Many people opt to have them removed to prevent pains and misalignment (this is especially important to many who have had orthodontic treatment.) In total, an average adult will have 32 teeth in his or her permanent set, though some may be lost overtime due to injury or removal. In rare cases, a third layer of teeth, known as supernumerary teeth, might be present. In this situation, the teeth are typically discovered during a routine exam, and surgical removal or expedited tooth pulling can remedy the matter.

Posted in: Dental Hygiene