What to Do When Your Child Loses Their Teeth:

the transition from baby teeth to permanent dentition

October 2, 2019

Losing their first set of teeth is a huge milestone for your kiddos! Of course, as with any big life event, it comes with a lot of questions. When will they lose them? What do you have to do to prepare? How much do you have to pay the tooth fairy?! Let’s explore answers to some of these queries!

When will my child lose their baby teeth?

adult tooth eruption chartThis handy chart from the ADA breaks it down nicely, but in general, you can expect your little one’s teeth to fall out roughly in the same order they came in initially. 

The lower central teeth are generally lost at 6-7 years, with the upper front teeth close behind. After that, teeth are lost/replaced around the rate of 3-4 a year until age 12 or 13. 

In addition to the teeth being replaced, your child’s more fully developed jaw is large enough at this stage to support adult molars!

There are 3 sets of these, one in each quadrant of the mouth, that bring us from a total of 20 baby teeth to 32 adult teeth. First molars will come in around ages 6-7 and second molars from 11-13 – hence you’ll often hear these called “6 year” and “12 year” molars.

The third molars, more commonly known as wisdom teeth, don’t come in until the late teens, and sometimes don’t erupt at all. When they do erupt, they often cause issues for the rest of the mouth, which is why they are so often extracted shortly after their arrival. 

What happens if a baby tooth falls out too early?

Depends on the tooth! In the event of injury/trauma/premature loss of a front tooth, probably not a lot. It’s important to take your kiddo in to see the dentist for an assessment, but more likely than not they’ll just monitor the area until the permanent tooth erupts. 

If, however, one of the back teeth (primary Molars) is lost too early, you’ll want your dentist to address that using a “space maintainer” to prevent shifting of the other teeth, which could negatively impact the position of the adult dentition.

Why are baby teeth important?

We go into more detail on that here, but in short, baby teeth are the gatekeepers for permanent teeth. If they are not well cared for and suffer decay, it can affect the placement and development of permanent teeth, and may even lead to a more serious infection. 

How can I tell if my child will need braces?

At our office, we check children for signs of crowding/misalignment and start taking x-rays around age 6 to help determine if orthodontic treatment will be necessary down the line. Often a dentist will be able to predict future orthodontic treatment by around 8 years old, depending on the case. However, it’s important to note that at this young age, some crowding or spacing is completely normal, and may self-correct as the child’s jaw grows. 

Most of the time, monitoring is recommended until age 12 or 13, when your child has the majority of their adult teeth and can start any necessary orthodontic process. For younger children, ages 6 and up, orthodontic expanders are commonly used when the Dentist notes that the upper and lower arch are too narrow to accommodate the permanent teeth.  

What do I need to do to prepare for my kid’s adult teeth?

In our experience, outside of keeping things clean and regular dental visits, addressing pacifier use/thumb sucking is the number one way you can help ensure a healthy adult smile for your kids. Ideally, these self soothing techniques would be dramatically reduced by around age 3 – if they persist in a meaningful way to age 5 or 6, they can lead to serious teeth misalignment, speech impediment, or jaw malformation. Read up on our tips for breaking the habit. And of course, don’t hesitate to ask us if you have questions or concerns!