It can be a little scary, a little overwhelming, and it’s usually at least a little bit exciting the first time that tiny, pearly tooth gives a nudge and a wiggle in your little one’s mouth. Over the course of the next few years, your child will lose all the baby teeth that have accompanied them on their journey through life so far in favor of a larger set of permanent teeth that will serve them through the rest of their life. On the off chance that you don’t remember absolutely every detail of losing your own set of baby teeth, let’s take a quick look at the process of losing baby teeth so you can feel better equipped to guide your youngster(s) through this milestone process.
Right from the Start
Your baby starts developing little buds that will grow into teeth at 6 weeks into pregnancy. The hard precursor to enamel starts developing between 3-4 months during the pregnancy. After a few months of charming everyone with a gummy grin, babies pop out the first baby tooth, generally between 6-10 months of age. Usually, the last baby teeth to make their appearance are commonly called 3-year molars because they arrive between 2 ½ and 3 years of age. In all, babies are expected to grow 20 teeth, 10 top, and 10 bottom, in the first years of their lives.
Starting around 6 years of age, usually in kindergarten or first grade, the process begins to reverse, and those little teeth come out in basically the order they grew in.
The American Dental Association has produced this handy chart showing each baby tooth, when it comes in (erupts) and at what age it is usually lost (shed).
While we tend to think of the age that children lose their first tooth, it’s important to remember that tooth loss takes time. It’s a good thing that it does, too, since the child is growing rapidly, and that growth is necessary to make space for the 32 permanent teeth that will replace the 20 smaller baby teeth. Most children will lose their last baby teeth just before they enter their teen years, at 11 or 12 years old. The last permanent teeth to arrive, the wisdom teeth, can appear as late as 21, an age at which the child is expected to have accumulated some wisdom (hence the name of the teeth).
Everything Must Go
So, the answer to how many baby teeth a child loses is, of course, all of them, about 20. Some children have specific developmental differences that affect how many baby teeth develop. Teeth are important for facial development, speaking, chewing, and smiling, so it’s important to care for those baby teeth, even though they are only temporary additions to your little one’s smile. Avoiding early tooth loss from accidental injuries to the face or tooth decay helps your child’s permanent teeth come in correctly and preserves the best facial shape. Teach your children to brush each tooth every day, twice a day, with appropriate dental care products. If your little one is too young to understand the proper spitting technique and swallows toothpaste, you might consider using a fluoride-free product until they improve their brushing. Switching to a fluoride tooth cleaner as soon as possible helps keep the baby teeth strong and healthy while hanging around. Call the tooth fairy and enjoy this adventure; it’s time to lose some teeth.