Where is my new tooth? 10 Common Milk Teeth Questions Answered
From their first wobbly tooth to their final permanent tooth, losing milk teeth is an exciting and important time in your child’s development. Discover what you need to know about this period and help ensure the safe arrival of their adult teeth and their long-term oral health.
You may remember when your child was about six months of age, and their first milk tooth began to break through.
That pivotal moment marked the start of a long and ear-numbing few years during which they developed all twenty of their milk teeth.
But finally their milk teeth have finished their work, chomping and chewing and helping your child make new sounds, and the time has come for them to depart, ready for a new set of permanent teeth to take over.
Over a period of about five years, they’ll lose all their milk teeth and grow a set of thirty-two adult teeth: eight incisors, four canines, eight premolars, and 12 molars (including four wisdom teeth).
Fortunately, this process is not as painful as the first time (for the child or parent), but there are certain things you need to know to make sure it goes smoothly and without any undue mishaps.
Here we’ve gathered some of the most common questions concerning losing baby teeth and adult teeth coming through. Keep this page in your bookmarks so you can refer to it and be best prepared to look after their goofy but glorious toothless grins.
Do I need to look after milk teeth?
You may be thinking “Why do I need to take care of milk teeth? After all, they’re destined to fall out anyway.”
But you can think of baby teeth as little placeholders, there to create an ideal environment for healthy adult teeth to come through. For instance, if a baby tooth has a cavity and gets infected, that infection could spread into the jaw and affect the development and spacing of permanent teeth.
But not only that, milk teeth also play important roles on a daily basis, helping your child chew food, speak clearly, and show off their brilliant smiles. Getting into the habit of good oral hygiene early on therefore has lots of benefits and can also help build habits that carry on right through into adulthood.
Should I pull out a very loose tooth?
Although it’s a fun family activity to tie a piece of string from the tooth onto some contraption or other and yank it out, loose milk teeth should be left to fall out naturally.
This will avoid the tooth breaking off in the mouth and leading to infection. You can encourage your child to wiggle the tooth around with her finger or tongue – twisting it if it’s already mostly detached at the root and gently pushing it back and forward.
When it feels ready to come out, your child can pull it herself. If the tooth comes out unexpectedly, your child may swallow it – this will cause no harm and is generally nothing to worry about, although if you are planning to bank the cells from their milk teeth you will want to avoid this scenario.
What’s the normal age for losing their first milk tooth?
Usually the first of your child’s baby teeth are lost when they are around six years of age. However, some kids may lose their first as early as five or as late as seven, which is still considered normal.
A milk tooth becomes loose when the adult tooth below pushes it up and starts to take its place. But it is possible for your child to lose a milk tooth before the adult tooth is ready to come through, for instance, due to an accident or dental disease. In this case, you should take your child to see a paediatric dentist and have a plastic placeholder inserted until the adult tooth is ready to erupt.
In what order do milk teeth fall out?
In most cases, a child’s twenty milk teeth fall out in the same order in which they came in.
But before they begin falling out, your child can expect a set of molars, often known as the “six-year molars”, to come through at the back of the mouth behind all their milk teeth.
Normally the first actual milk teeth to go are the two bottom front teeth (lower central incisors), followed by the upper central incisors. Next it’s the lateral incisors, first/front molars, canines and second/back molars.
What’s the normal age for losing their last milk tooth?
On average, children will lose all their milk teeth before the age of thirteen, with girls often losing theirs faster than boys and even as early as eleven.
Below is an average timeline of when kids can expect to lose certain teeth. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t match these exact ages; it’s common to see 14-year-olds still hanging on to a few milk teeth. The actual year in which they lose them is not as important as the pattern:
Age 6: Lower and upper central incisors
Age 7: Lower and upper lateral incisors
Age 10: Lower canines and upper first molars
Age 11: Lower first molars
Age 12: Upper and lower second molars and upper canines
My child’s teeth are coming in behind their milk teeth. Should I be concerned?
It can be alarming to see your child grow a few adult teeth before their baby teeth have fallen out. However, it’s typical for permanent teeth to come in behind baby teeth, especially the ones on the bottom.
Most of the time, the baby teeth will simply fall out on their own, with the tongue pushing the adult teeth forward into their proper position. But if the milk tooth hasn’t fallen out within two or three months, you should take your child to see their dentist.
Why do we have milk teeth?
Unlike a lot of animals, humans grow two sets of teeth in their lifetime: permanent adult teeth and deciduous or milk teeth. This is largely thought to be because a child’s jaw is too small to fit in a full set of 32 adult teeth.
Like our adult teeth, milk teeth tend to erupt in pairs. So, when two incisors come through from the lower jaw, you can expect two to come in from the upper jaw soon after. This is to allow us to bite down and chew evenly and also ensure our teeth grow and wear down evenly too.
Milk teeth are also pivotal in helping children reach speech milestones, as the tongue and teeth are key to forming sounds and making words. Find out more in this short video.
What should I do with milk teeth once they’ve fallen out?
Many parents, after ‘sending them to the Tooth Fairy’, traditionally do one of two things with their child’s milk teeth: save them as mementoes or throw them away. But today there’s a third option that’s becoming increasingly popular among parents: sending them to a tooth cell bank.
Much like the time in which cord blood stem cells were thrown away as medical waste, we’re still clocking on to the fact that our milk teeth are one of the body’s greatest sources of stem cells. There are a number of reasons for this including the particularly functional type of stem cells that are found there, the ease and low cost of extracting them, and the young and healthy state they are found in.