The Form and Functions of Teeth
Human growth and development is a marvel. A baby is born with everything he or she needs to grow into his or her adult body, but that adult body needs time throughout childhood to grow and develop. Nowhere is this more evident than in the hard tissues of the body—the bones and the teeth. A baby is born with more bones than an adult and as they develop, the bones fuse together, finally reaching the final number (206), and form the adult skeleton. For example, a baby is born with three bones in the knee that will grow together to form a single kneecap bone, the patella. Teeth, the body’s other hard tissue, also start development differently from the final form they take. So, how does tooth development work, and most importantly, how many teeth should adults have, and how many teeth do toddles have?
What Does Early Tooth Development Look Like?
The earliest tooth development begins around six weeks of gestation, well before the baby is born. Permanent teeth begin to develop before birth, too, at around twenty weeks. A baby is born with tooth buds—but no visible teeth. As the baby grows and develops, those tooth buds push out through the gums during the process we commonly call teething. Teeth can start appearing anywhere between six months and a year of age and continue breaking through until about age three. The baby was born with the enamel that covers those baby teeth, which is why it’s so important that mom’s pregnancy diet includes plenty of calcium, vitamin D, and avoids medications that can permanently stain enamel.
Primary teeth, more commonly known as baby teeth, fall out, making way for permanent teeth to grow in behind them. The enamel that covers permanent teeth grows with each child, with the most growth happening between 15 months and 30 months. After age eight, tooth enamel is done developing and can only be maintained, not created. That’s why the risk of dental fluorosis is eliminated after age eight.
How Many Teeth Do Adults Have?
A normal complement of adult teeth includes 32 teeth. They usually grow in during the school years, starting at about age five with the lower incisors, the bottom front teeth, and continuing to molars in the back of the mouth in the late preteen or early teen years. After a brief pause, your final molars will attempt to grow into the very back of your mouth sometime in your late teens or early twenties. Because they arrive later, when you have grown in knowledge, they are nicknamed wisdom teeth. It’s normal for an individual to run out of room in his or her mouth before the wisdom teeth arrive, so having your wisdom teeth removed is a common oral surgery procedure. If all four wisdom teeth are removed, then the adult mouth will have 28 teeth.
How Many Teeth Do Toddlers Have?
Unlike bones, which children have more of than adults, toddlers have fewer teeth than adults do. Children have 10 baby teeth on the bottom and 10 baby teeth on the top, for a total of 20 primary teeth. It makes sense, if you think about it, that children would have fewer teeth. They have a smaller mouth with less room for teeth than an adult. Even though those first teeth fall out, it’s still important to take good care of those teeth. They help with speech, jaw development, a normal smile appearance, and they maintain space for the permanent teeth to grow in. Encouraging children to develop great brushing habits with high-quality oral care products sets them up for healthier smiles for life.
What If I Think I Don’t Have the Right Number of Teeth?
Consult your oral care team. If there’s a problem with how your teeth or your children’s teeth are developing, your oral care team is in the best position to let you know what the problem might be and how to address it. If there’s no problem, your oral care team will be able to reassure you that everything is going well.