How Many Teeth Do Kids Lose?

Bye Bye, Baby Teeth: A Parent's Guide to Normal Dental Development

Considering how painfully loud kids can be, their mouths are surprisingly small. All 32 adult teeth couldn't fit into that cramped space, so Mother Nature gifts children with a starter set of just 20 teeth. Most kids lose all those baby teeth once the permanent teeth are ready to appear. As with all elements of physical development, though, there are some variations possible. The next time your child opens her mouth to yawn, sing or scream, take a quick peek to see how everything's coming along.

The Naked Tooth

Little beautiful african girl brushing teeth

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Occasionally, a baby is born with at least one tooth already in place, which is not terribly pleasant for his breastfeeding mother. But in the majority of cases, infants' teeth start appearing between the ages and 3 and 7 months old. Often the bottom two front teeth are the first to arrive. The rest of the teeth erupt through the gums at a rate of about one tooth per month on average, ending with the back molars. These final teeth typically appear when a child is between 2 and 3 years old.

Most kids ultimately end up with 20 teeth altogether, 10 on top and 10 on the bottom. These starter teeth allow a child to chew and talk, and they act like a barrier until the permanent teeth are ready to grow in. Without a baby tooth blocking its path, an adult tooth may appear too early and interfere with the way the rest of the teeth grow in.

So Long, Baby Teeth

If your child's dental development is normal, her baby teeth should stay in place until she's between 5 and 7, when the first teeth usually start falling out. Kids generally (but not always) lose their teeth in the same order they got them, starting with the bottom lower teeth. As the permanent teeth grow in under the gums, they push their way up and move the baby teeth out.

Ultimately, 32 permanent teeth will replace the 20 baby teeth. Most of them should be in place by the time a child is about 12. However, the wisdom teeth at the very back of the mouth come in later. These four teeth typically erupt between the ages of 17 and 21 or so, or appear even later in some people.

Baby teeth usually take longer to fall out than they did to grow in. Some kids lose their first teeth at 5 and their last teeth at 12, while the process takes just four or five years in other kids. In most kids, the second molars at the back of the mouth are the last to go. They often fall out when a child is around 11 or 12.

Your child may not follow that timeline for any number of reasons. Trauma to the mouth can make teeth fall out earlier than expected. Certain medical conditions and disabilities also affect dental development. Children with Down syndrome typically get their baby teeth and permanent teeth later than other children, for example. And in some people, the baby teeth never fall out on their own.

As long as your child sees a dentist for regular checkups, you shouldn't be too concerned about minor variations from the typical timeline. But if you notice a permanent tooth growing in behind a baby tooth or anything else that seems abnormal or affects your child's ability to talk or chew, call the dentist right away.

Encouraging a Loose Tooth

Little beautiful african girl brushing teeth

What to Expect When a Child Loses Baby Teeth

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Remember the incredibly weird and distracting sensation of being able to move a lose tooth with your tongue? Your child will experience it too in the days and weeks leading up to each baby tooth falling out. It happens because the permanent tooth causes the roots of the baby tooth to dissolve.

With your own loose teeth, you may have attempted some poorly-planned maneuvers to force them out. But while tying a string around a tooth and letting your sibling yank the string sounds like a good idea to a kid, your dentist won't approve.

The best option is to let nature do its thing and let the tooth fall out when it's ready. Make sure your child brushes her teeth regularly and thoroughly, which may help speed up the process. Meanwhile, get your story straight about the Tooth Fairy. She's going to make an appearance any day now.