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How Many Teeth Do Children Have?

Dental Do’s and Don’ts for Kids

Your child is a complete original. Maybe he has an extensive paper towel collection, or he insists on moonwalking down the grocery store aisles. But while having a unique personality is a wonderful thing, when he has a medical issue, you’d probably prefer he fall solidly into the normal camp. Having more or fewer teeth than is typical can cause problems in the way he talks and eats. With the help of his dentist, keep track of how many teeth your child has to make sure he’s on track.

Normal Teeth, by the Numbers

Babies are born with small mouths, so there’s not enough room for adult-sized teeth. That’s why children’s first teeth are called “baby teeth,” or “primary teeth.” Kids keep those teeth for several years. As they grow, adult teeth develop under the gums. Those teeth, also called “permanent teeth,” push through the gums and knock the baby teeth out of the way. It takes more than 10 years for a full set of adult teeth to come in.

Most kids start teething anywhere between 3 to 7 months old. New teeth should erupt somewhat sporadically over the next two to three years; most kids have a full set of 20 baby teeth by around 3 years old.

Baby teeth start falling out around age 6 or 7. The last ones usually fall out around age 12. In the meantime, adult teeth take their place. Ultimately, your child should end up with a set of 32 teeth. The last four to arrive, the third molars or wisdom teeth, may not erupt until your child is in his late teens or early 20s.

Exceptions to the Rules

Shark Teeth in Children

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Many otherwise healthy kids have teeth that grow in abnormally. Sometimes trauma to the mouth will make a baby tooth fall out too early, which creates a domino effect, causing adult teeth to come in too early, resulting in crowding. Some kids never get certain baby teeth or adult teeth, or their adult teeth start coming in before the baby teeth fall out.

If you notice any abnormalities in the way your child’s teeth appear, call his dentist right away. Left untreated, missing or extra teeth can damage a person’s ability to talk and chew properly.

Caring for a Baby’s Teeth

For the first few years of his life, your child’s dental care is solely your responsibility. Your first challenge? Helping him through teething.

Brushing his gums with a clean toothbrush or a wet piece of gauze is one of the easiest and most effective ways to ease your baby’s teething discomfort. A hard rubber teething toy and cold solids like applesauce (if he’s older than 6 months) may help too. Talk to your pediatrician about giving over-the-counter pain relievers if nothing else seems to work.

Dentists recommend that you start a daily brushing routine the day your baby’s first tooth erupts. Twice a day, use a small, soft-headed toothbrush designed for infants and a tiny smear (about the size of a grain of rice) of fluoridated toothpaste to brush all sides of his teeth.

Increase the amount of toothpaste to a glob the size of a pea once your child is around 3, when he’s ready to brush, rinse and spit. But continue to handle or oversee the brushing until he’s proven capable of doing a thorough job on his own. Don’t floss your child’s teeth until his dentist tells you to start.

Schedule the first appointment with a pediatric dentist before your child’s first birthday, at the latest. From that first appointment onward, the dentist may need to see your child as often as every six months.