The transition from baby teeth to adult teeth is generally a painless affair. In fact, your kids may even look forward to it as it might mean a visit from the Tooth Fairy! A baby tooth will usually fall out on its own, but there may be certain situations when a visit to the dentist is needed to help extract the baby tooth out.

What Are Baby Teeth?

Your child’s first set of teeth is called deciduous teeth. But it is more commonly known as milk teeth, baby teeth or primary teeth. There are 20 of them, and they start to erupt at around six months of age, although eruption times vary from child to child.

The first to show up are the central incisors, or what many of us refer to as the front teeth. Lower teeth generally erupt before the upper teeth. Most children will have a complete set of baby teeth by the time they are three years of age.

What Are Permanent Teeth?

Your child’s baby teeth will gradually be replaced by permanent teeth or adult teeth. There are 32 permanent teeth (permanent dentition), and they usually start to replace the baby teeth when your child reaches six years old, which means your child will start to lose his or her primary teeth around the same time he or she enters primary school!

Of course, every child is different, and some may experience the loss of his or her first baby tooth at five years old, while others may have to wait until seven years old before they get to hold their own tooth in their palms.

How Are Permanent Teeth Different from Baby Teeth?

For one, there are 32 permanent teeth while there are only 20 baby teeth. Permanent teeth are bigger than baby teeth and they may not appear as white as baby teeth. This is because the enamel of baby teeth is thinner than the enamel of permanent teeth. The roots of baby teeth are also thinner and shorter than the roots of permanent teeth, because baby teeth are designed to fall out once the permanent teeth erupt towards the surface.

Why It’s Important to Take Care of Baby Teeth

Just because baby teeth will fall out in future does not mean that you can neglect oral care at this stage. Baby teeth are just as important as permanent teeth; they play a very important part in dental development.

Baby teeth not only help maintain the space for your child's permanent teeth, they also help your child to chew and speak properly. Lack of dental care for the baby teeth may lead to dental decay, which could cause pain and swelling for your child. Early loss of baby teeth due to decay may lead to drifting of neighbouring teeth and malalignment of the adult dentition.

This is why it is important to cultivate good oral habits in your child from a young age to make sure that your child has healthy teeth and a great smile for life. Caring for our primary teeth is also great practice for caring for our permanent teeth. Give your child a great, healthy start to permanent teeth!

When Will Baby Teeth Fall Out?

Just like how milk teeth erupt at various ages, they will fall out at various times too. The central incisors are usually the first to be replaced by permanent central incisors at around six to seven years of age. In fact, your child’s baby teeth will fall out in the same order they appeared.

The lower primary front teeth usually erupt first, so they are also the first to fall out. This is followed by the lateral incisors (right next to the central incisors), and then the first molar, second molar and canine (cuspid) teeth.

All of the baby teeth should fall out by the time your child turns 12 years old. This means that between the ages of 6 and 12, your child will have a mix of both baby teeth and adult teeth in his or her mouth.

How Do Baby Teeth Fall Out?

Baby teeth are usually pushed out by emerging permanent teeth. Your child will be the first to tell you that he or she can feel a tooth moving, or that it is wiggly. The loose tooth will then fall out in a few days, or even a few weeks.

Your child may experience some difficulty eating because of a loose, wiggly tooth. If that happens, you can offer smaller, bite-sized pieces of food so that it is easier to chew. You can also give your child softer foods such as kiwi, strawberries and cooked vegetables.

There is usually no need to intervene and extract a loose baby tooth. Just let nature take its course but remind your child to continue the good habit of toothbrushing. Regular brushing can help the tooth come out easily with very little pain and bleeding.

Parents tend to believe that loose baby teeth should be removed early to prevent misalignment of permanent teeth. This is actually not true. If your child has crowding issues with permanent teeth, removal of loose baby teeth will not solve this problem. As you can see from the picture below, removal of the baby teeth will not encourage the permanent teeth to grow into the correct position due to the lack of space available.

There is no need to extract a primary/baby tooth if the permanent/adult tooth is just erupting

A child with both milk teeth and permanent teeth. A situation which warrants a check-up and possible extraction of a firm milk tooth.

If however there is space in the jaw, it is then normal and common to observe the ingrowing adult tooth migrate naturally into the arch once the loose baby tooth falls out.

Once the tooth falls out, get your child to gargle with some water, especially if there is bleeding. There is no need for your child to stop brushing his or her teeth. Toothbrushing twice a day should be maintained. If you have trouble getting your child to do so, here are some tips to make brushing a fun activity for your child.

When Should We Extract Baby Teeth?

There are some situations when you might need to pay a visit to the dentist for some help in getting a baby tooth extracted. For example, when the same tooth on the opposite side has dropped and the permanent tooth has erupted more than six months ago.

A child with both milk teeth and permanent teeth. Sometimes, certain situations may require a dentist to extract a milk tooth.

Or when the permanent tooth has fully erupted but the primary tooth is firm, then the dentist might suggest an extraction.

If you have any concerns about your child’s baby or adult teeth, make an appointment with the dentist, or raise your concerns during the next scheduled dental visit.

Visit Parent Hub, for more useful tips and guides to give your child a healthy start.