“All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth,” a rather popular song goes. While it’s just a silly holiday song for most, dentists are probably thinking of the singer as a 7 or 8-year-old child eagerly waiting for the eruption of her central pair of permanent teeth.

How our teeth develop through different stages in life is a particular interest for dentists. In the industry, it’s a field known as odontogenesis. “Odonto” refers to teeth while “genesis” refers to the beginning.

Newborn

Babies are born without teeth, and they undergo what is commonly called the “teething” stage. At this point, the gums are erupted to reveal “milk” or deciduous teeth.

The first deciduous teeth to pop out would be the central incisors at the lower jaw, which happens during the first seven to eight months of their lives. From the centre to the molars at the back of the mouth, it will take between 19 to 36 months for the entire mouth of babies to be filled with teeth.

The succession is simple – central incisors first then the molars. The lower jaw (or mandibular) teeth develop first by around two months. By the end of the eruption of deciduous teeth, a regular mouth will have 20 teeth, distributed evenly between the upper and lower jaw.

Deciduous teeth don’t last. They have a thinner layer of enamel over them and when coupled with sugar-heavy diets, making them extremely susceptible to cavities. The roots are also shorter and smaller, allowing easier falling out should the time come.

The Transition

At around six years old, another change will happen. Milk teeth will start falling out, and will slowly be replaced by the stronger and tougher permanent teeth. The shift pans out, and it will continue happening until the child becomes a teenager, between 12 and 14 years old.

The first permanent teeth to come out would be the molars, which emerge first. Parents are cautioned to take good care of these teeth because they are supposed to last a lifetime. They are often confused with milk teeth and might be given insufficient attention.

By this time, the jaws would have grown. Space in-between teeth have developed which gives space to even more teeth to emerge.

Permanent Teeth

These teeth are determined to last a lifetime, and they will naturally come with thicker layers of enamel and longer, thicker roots. In comparison to the 20 deciduous teeth, upon full development, an average person will have 32 teeth. Permanent teeth also develop darker coloured enamels, which can be lightened through teeth whitening at our Gainsborough practice.

Unlike most other parts of the body, permanent teeth are unable to heal themselves. That’s why when a cavity forms on the surface, there is no way for the teeth to fight back. Healing is possible through cells of the body of which the enamel, the hardest part of the body, has none. At the outermost layer, there is also no opportunity for the enamel to receive and process nutrition from the blood vessels.

This is where dentists come in. To maintain a mouth full of healthy teeth, regular trips to the dentists (at least once every three or four months) will ensure that your permanent teeth will remain healthy throughout your lifetime. By fixing issues before they become unfixable, taking care of your teeth shouldn’t be as hard.