The tooth development journey in a nutshell

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We all know that teething is a big part of a child’s first year. But do you actually know the “ins and outs” of the tooth development journey? When most of us are born we don’t have teeth visible in our mouths, but did you know that your teeth are actually already growing even before you are born?1

Primary or baby tooth development begins between the sixth and eighth week of prenatal development and your permanent teeth within the twentieth week.1 Yes, we also have our permanent teeth growing under our gums at the same time before we are even born.

By the time we reach the age of three years, most of us will have all our baby teeth where we can see them.2 Baby teeth are very important but, as mentioned, it’s not the only teeth we have. Our baby teeth are basically space holders for our permanent teeth and as we grow, our permanent teeth will slowly push through the gums to replace our baby teeth.

“Studies show that 85% of babies actually experience pain while teething.”

Before this can happen, our jaw and facial bones have to grow to create space between the primary teeth (this usually happens when we are four years old). It is a natural growth process that provides the necessary space for the larger permanent teeth to emerge.2,3

When we are about six years old, we will get our first permanent molars at the back of our mouth.3 At about the same time the front teeth start to come out. Our baby teeth become loose and fall out because their roots dissolve.

That is why you’ll notice when your child’s baby teeth start to fall out, the roots look very short. Baby teeth are smaller in size and whiter in colour than the permanent teeth that follow.3

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By the time we turn 12, our second molars and other permanent teeth should have come out. The last teeth, which are our wisdom molars, come out if there is room for them.

In some instances the eruption of primary teeth through the gums may cause discomfort or pain.4 Studies show that 85% of babies actually experience pain while teething.5 Eruptions of our permanent teeth are a little less troubling; however, the eruption of your permanent molars can cause swelling, redness, pain and even an infection if food gets trapped under the flap of tissue that covers the tooth (i.e. the flap that develops because of your tooth that is being pushed through your gums).4

For the pain, you can apply a topical analgesic such as Teejel® Gel to numb the area and minimise pain and discomfort.6,7 If your child’s pain seems to be more serious though, anti-inflammatory medications can also help to reduce swelling and pain.6 Talk to a pharmacist or dentist if pain persists.

References:

Also read:

11 essential teething questions answered
Oral care tips from a paediatric dentist