The Development of Children’s Teeth

Each person’s teeth, both primary (baby) teeth and secondary (adult) teeth begin forming before birth. Here’s what to expect as your children’s teeth erupt (emerge through the gums) and drop into place.

The first teeth to erupt are the lower and upper central incisors at 6 to 12 months. Usually the lower incisors appear first. The central incisors are followed by the lower and upper lateral incisors at 9 to 16 months. The lower and upper first molars typically erupt before the lower and upper canine (cuspid) teeth. By your child’s second birthday, you can expect all of the incisors, first molars and canines to have erupted. Second molars emerge anytime just before age 2 to age 3. The timing of each child’s tooth eruption is unique to the child.

Tooth eruption of girls typically precedes that of boys, and they typically erupt in pairs of one on the left and one on the right. Soon after age 4, the jaw and facial bones of your child will be begin to grow, making space for their larger adult (permanent) teeth.

Your child will start losing (shedding) her or his baby teeth at age 6 in relatively the same order as they came: central incisor (at 6 to 7 years), lateral incisors (at 7 to 8 years), first molars (at 9 to 11 years), and canines (at 10 to 12 years). The primary teeth are shed as the adult teeth descend. Between ages 6 and 12, your child will be smiling, laughing, talking, and chewing with a mixture of both primary and permanent teeth.

Even though baby teeth are in the mouth for only a few years, they are important to your child’s well being during early childhood and later throughout life. Here’s why:

  1. They are essential for chewing and attaining good nutrition.
  2. They aid in the development of speech.
  3. They give the face a normal appearance.
  4. They reserve space for their permanent counterparts.
  5. They also protect the permanent teeth if they remain decay and infection free. Badly decayed baby teeth can become abscessed (infected) and be lost prematurely and even result in the spread of infection elsewhere in the body. If your child’s teeth are damaged or destroyed, they can’t help guide your child’s permanent teeth into their proper position, possibly resulting in crowded or crooked permanent teeth.

Give your child a healthy start on life by caring for her or his primary teeth, scheduling regular dental examinations, and have any dental decay or tooth damage immediately treated. Pediatricians and the Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend that children be first examined by a pediatric dentist at age one. Read why.