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What are the Phases of Child Teeth Development?

There are three phases of child teeth development:

Phase 1

During phase one, primary or baby teeth grow in. Babies usually get their first tooth around 6 months old, but this can happen as late as age 1. One to two teeth grow in each month after the first tooth appears. Most children have all 20 of their primary or baby teeth by age 3.  

Phase 2

In phase two, a child’s baby teeth start to fall out. This begins around age 6 and continues until about age 12. This is known as a transitional dentition stage

Phase 3

The final stage, stage three, is when permanent teeth grow in. This three overlaps stage two. This means adult or permanent teeth begin growing in before a child loses all of their baby teeth.

Most people have 28 adult teeth by age 13. Their wisdom teeth, which are often surgically removed, appear around ages 17 to 21. At this age, some adults will have 32 teeth, including their wisdom teeth.

Why are Baby (Primary) Teeth Important?

Sometimes parents assume that baby teeth aren’t important because they eventually fall out and are replaced by adult teeth. This isn’t true. 

Baby teeth and children’s dental health are important because they:

  • Impact in a child’s long-term oral health
  • Hold space for the permanent teeth that will eventually grow in their place
  • Affect chewing
  • Allow a child to smile naturally
  • Play a role in speech development
  • Affect the palate shape, airway, and sleep disorders

When Should Routine Dentist Visits Start?

Your child should have their first children’s dental care visit as soon as their first tooth appears. Some parents believe children don’t need to see the dentist until age 2 or older, but this isn’t true. 

Ideally, pediatric dentists will assess a child’s dental health as soon as they begin teething.

Benefits of early dental visits include:

  • Receiving professional advice about oral health and teeth development
  • Normalizing routine visits to the dentist’s office
  • Learning about proper oral hygiene practices

Early visits also get your child comfortable with the dentist. It will be a routine practice by the time they’re old enough to realize what’s going on.

Some parents even bring their young children along for their own dental visits to help them feel as comfortable as possible with the environment.

What is Dental Plaque?

As children age, dental cleanings are essential to prevent plaque and tartar buildup. Plaque is a problem for people of all ages, including children. It’s a collection of bacteria, which develops as sticky, clear, or white film on the surface of teeth.

Plaque is typically difficult to notice, so don’t assume your child’s teeth are free of it.

Dental plaque increases the risk of a variety of dental health issues, including:

  • Tooth enamel breakdown
  • Cavities
  • Gum inflammation, which can lead to gum disease
  • Problems with teeth and bone structure

There are several things parents can do to help their child avoid issues with plaque. For example:

  • Choose (and regularly use) a toothbrush with soft nylon bristles
  • Floss once a day
  • Use a fluoride mouthwash
  • Encourage your child to eat healthy, crunchy foods like apples and carrots
  • Schedule regular dental visits
  • Discuss sealants with your child’s dentist

Dental sealants help prevent cavities. A dentist places them in the grooves and fissures of teeth. This prevents plaque from forming in these areas, ultimately reducing the risk of decay.

How to Care for Your Child’s Teeth From Birth

Parents can care for their children’s teeth, right from their first days of life, in several ways. 

Newborns and infants:

  • Clean your baby’s gums with a soft, damp cloth
  • Properly clean and sterilize feeding items
  • Keep pacifiers free of bacteria and germs
  • Avoid using the same eating utensils as your baby 

Children:

  • Start brushing your child’s teeth with a children’s toothbrush as soon as their first teeth appear. Use fluoride toothpaste (usually once they are around 6 months old)
  • Supervise brushing as your child ages and ask a dentist for a proper brushing and flossing demonstration
  • Limit sugary foods and beverages
  • Floss as soon as your child has two teeth touching
  • Schedule your child’s first dental visit when their first tooth appears
  • Speak to your child’s dentist about sealants and oral fluoride supplements

Preteens:

  • Continue to regularly schedule dental visits for your child
  • Speak to your child about dental health and encourage them to take an active role in maintaining it
  • Discourage sugary snacks and beverages as your child begins to make their own food choices
  • Ask a dentist about sealants and fluoride treatments
  • Discuss alignment and other orthodontic issues with a dentist

Teens:

  • Talk to your child about their dental health concerns, especially cosmetic issues
  • If necessary, discuss safe whitening options with your child and dentist
  • Periodically check in with your child about how they maintain good oral health 
  • Discuss oral sex and how it can affect their oral and overall health

Risks of Poor Dental Hygiene in Children

There are several risks associated with poor dental hygiene in children. In many cases, these problems worsen with age. 

Some of the most common risks of poor dental hygiene during childhood include:

  • Plaque buildup
  • Bad breath
  • Discoloration
  • Dental caries and cavities
  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Tooth loss
  • Oral inflammation and infection
  • Depressed immune response
  • Social and psychological issues associated with their appearance
  • Increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, and other health issues

Summary

There are three phases of child teeth development: teething, loss of baby teeth, and the arrival of permanent teeth. Children should begin routine dental visits with a pediatric dentist when they begin teething.

Parents can do several things to promote good oral health and healthy teeth during all phases of a child’s life. These include helping them floss and brush with fluoride toothpaste.

Risks associated with poor oral hygiene range from minor to severe. Parents should do all they can to encourage strong dental hygiene.

Last updated on April 22, 2022
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on April 22, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Children’s Oral Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019. 
  2. Children’s Dental Health.” www.cdc.gov, 21 Feb. 2020. 
  3. Rowan-Legg, Anne. “Oral Health Care for Children – a Call for Action.” Paediatrics & Child Health, vol. 18, no. 1, 1 Jan. 2013, pp. 37–43,. 
  4. Thiriot, Nick. “Blog: Oral Health in Utah.” Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, 21 Mar. 2022.  
  5. Take Care of Your Child’s Teeth” Health.gov. 
  6. Tooth Decay | National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.” www.nidcr.nih.gov
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