Baby teeth refer to your baby’s first teeth.  We call them baby teeth, deciduous teeth, primary teeth or milk teeth.  These tiny baby teeth, no matter what you call them, all fall away by about the age of six.  As baby teeth disappear, permanent teeth replace them.

We all know this, but perhaps there are some facts we do not realize behind the under-appreciated heroes we call “baby” teeth.

Baby Teeth and their Short, Happy Lives

The life cycle of deciduous teeth is from the time your baby is six months old until he or she achieves six years of age.  But during that time, baby teeth assume some awesome, even excruciatingly difficult tasks.

Baby teeth must have TLC!

This mystified baby enjoys her clean mouth, although she does not understand it.

Baby teeth help your child learn important life skills:

  • Speaking,
  • Chewing, and most importantly,
  • Paving the way for the eruption of the permanent teeth.

Yes, these tiny little teeth are the ultimate placeholders.  They keep the red carpet of gums, bone, sockets, and blood in place for the permanent teeth.  In a way, they reserve special “seats” for the all-important VIP’s to come, the permanent teeth.  (Maybe we should call them VIT’s, but then we would have to categorize them into such fancy sub-groups as VIM’s, for the hefty Molars.  We will leave that for another story.)

Today’s story is about the ways deciduous or primary teeth vary from their bigger, stronger replacement brethren, the permanents. (Yup, “VIP’s” works for their name.)

The two sets of teeth the average human has over a lifetime are quite different in composition, structure, and number.  Here follows a little anatomy lesson, but we promise there will be a moral to the story, so keep on reading…

The First Baby Difference:  Composition

Did you ever wonder why your baby’s teeth are so brightly white compared to the permanent ones?  The enamel coatings of baby teeth are thinner than the enamel on permanent teeth.  That’s the reason the primary teeth usually appear to be whiter than the permanent teeth.  You can really perceive this when a child has a mixed set.  Permanent teeth appear to be more off-white, egg-shell or yellowish.

Perhaps the thinner, whiter enamel is aesthetically pleasing to you, but it is a weakness.  You see, the thinner enamel makes it easier for the baby teeth to decay.  That is why we at Dentistry for Children advocate regular visits and lots of fluorides for these thinly coated white beauties.  That’s why we believe in building good oral hygiene habits from the earliest possible date.  We used to say one year old, but now we are passing out tiny toothbrushes to 6-month-old babies, to begin building those oral hygiene habits from the very first tooth.

The Second Baby Difference:  Structure

The shapes of baby teeth are different from those of the permanent set.  You’ve seen this in the roots of baby teeth.  They are thin and short, far different from the elongated, branched, appearance of permanent teeth.  Common sense leads us to believe there is a reason behind the short stubby roots of baby teeth.  Perhaps this structure helps them dissolve and pop out, leaving perfect space behind for the permanent teeth to fill.

Baby cleans her Daddy's teeth.

My, what big teeth you have! With mom and baby’s help, Daddy gets a clean set of teeth.

Another interesting feature of the baby teeth are the smooth edges.  If you have noticed the two front teeth of your child grow in, chances are you saw the mamelons.  These are tiny crenelated bumps on the edges that wear off as the child grows.  Mamelons are never seen in baby teeth.

The Third Big Difference Factor:  The Sheer Number of Teeth

A noted difference between the primary teeth and the permanent teeth is the number of them.  The official count, according to the American Dental Association, is that human beings have 20 primary teeth and 32 permanent teeth, including four wisdom teeth.

Open Wide and See Why We Have So Few Baby Teeth!

A child’s mouth is much smaller than an adult’s.  Children don’t have room for a team of molars in the back of the mouth.  As humans grow, the jaw elongates and makes space for our massive amount of adult teeth.

Did You Know?

Straight from the files of the ADA, we bring you some interesting facts:

Did you know that “most children have 28 of their permanent teeth by age 13 years?  If your baby is not yet 13 years old, here’s what to expect by the time they are.

1.  These include four central incisors,

2.  four lateral incisors,

3.  eight premolars, and

4.  four canines,

5. eight molars.

Now that’s a mouthful!  One of the first, best exercises to make your children aware of their teeth is counting and naming them.

About Those Teeth of Wisdom

The third molars are also called “wisdom teeth.”  They start pushing their way through gum-lines between ages 17-21.  According to the ADA, “Because they are so far back in the mouth, third molars often are not needed for chewing and are difficult to keep clean…”

Baby Teeth Are Heroes. Appreciate them.

Deciduous Teeth are Super Teeth

We might recommend their removal to prevent complications like partial or misplaced eruption and impaction.  Who knows?  Perhaps there was a date and time in history when humans really needed these extra chewers to chomp and crunch our food.

The Misconception behind Deciduous Teeth

Since the primary teeth are designed to fall out, people often have the misconception they don’t need care or protection.  Show your child’s baby teeth some love.  If they are lost early, then your child’s permanent teeth have lost their space-setters.  Improper alignment of the teeth could become a life-long problem.  Plus, sloppy lessons in oral hygiene could result in an unhealthy mouth for life.

So, we advise protecting those baby teeth from decay and damage.  Dentistry for Children is 100 % dedicated to helping your child attain good oral habits early in life.  We believe baby teeth are heroes, never to be considered zeros, just because their lives are short.