When will my baby teeth fall out?

     As an orthodontist, I am often asked by parents why their children’s baby teeth are not falling out on time? At what age should all the baby teeth fall out by? What is the typical order that adult teeth erupt? In order to understand the eruption/exfoliation concept, it is best to start at the beginning. The first primary (or baby) teeth to come in are typically the lower incisors and they erupt around 6 months old. By around age 3, a child will normally have all 20 of their primary teeth in their mouth. Baby teeth are usually bright and white, and they have even been called “milk” teeth in the past. It is not until around age 6 that any additional changes will start to take place.

     At the age of about 6, there is an onset of rapid baby tooth loss. Typically it is the 8 primary incisors that fall out at this time, which become replaced with 8 adult (or permanent) incisors. In addition to the adult incisors, the “6 year” molars, or the first permanent molars begin to erupt behind the primary molars. The adult teeth are usually much yellower than the primary teeth, so parents should not worry about the normal color difference. 

      Not much happens for a few years after these primary incisors fall out. During this typical lag time, the rest of the adult teeth are growing within the bone and preparing to erupt. On average, between the ages of 10-13, the remaining baby teeth are lost and the rest of the adult teeth erupt. Including the third molars (wisdom teeth), there are 32 teeth in the normal adult dentition.

     Of key importance, parents and children should understand that these listed ages give a range of normal development, and that in some children tooth development occurs outside of this normal range, without any developmental problems. There is not always a direct correlation between a person’s dental age and actual chronological age. In my years of experience, I  have seen many young patients at the age of 9 or 10 that have all of their adult teeth; moreover, I have seen just as many older patients at the age of 15 or 16 that still have some baby teeth in their mouth.

    Whether you or your child have all of their adult teeth, all of their baby teeth, or some combination of both, the most important thing is that we take proper care of them. Plaque, and ultimately cavities can happen on any tooth no matter the age or type of the tooth, so make sure to keep them clean and happy! (And please don’t use the excuse that baby teeth will eventually fall out so they don’t need to be properly cared for!!)