Life

Ask the Dentist: How and when teeth should erupt in children's mouths

Dentist Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care in Belfast says children's new teeth can look gappy but usually that's totally normal

Baby teeth are shed at various times throughout childhood – by age 21, all 32 permanent teeth have typically erupted

A CHILD'S smile is super endearing, with the gaps between the teeth adding to the cuteness factor. However, many parents fret that this may not be normal.

At birth people usually have 20 baby teeth, which start to erupt through the gum from about six months of age. Generally all the first set of teeth are visible by three years old. They are shed at various times throughout childhood. By age 21, all 32 of the permanent teeth have typically erupted.

Like everything in the human body there is a wide variation between individuals. Teeth not only vary in size, shape and their location in the jaws but also at the speed with which they erupt. Some people get all their adult teeth very fast and some take longer and this is just all normal.

It’s very common for children to have gaps between their baby teeth. In fact, it’s a good thing as it means that there will be more room for the permanent teeth and thus less crowding of the adult teeth.

When the four upper front teeth come down they are spaced and splayed. Then, as the upper eye canine teeth grow in, these push the upper four front teeth together. However, the gaps between some adult teeth can remain if, for example, there are large jaws or small teeth.

There is also a muscle, the frenum, between the upper two front teeth that can act as a spacer and hold the front teeth apart. Occasionally if a person wants braces to bring their teeth together the large muscle can be repositioned so it’s no longer in the way.

Extremely rarely extra teeth can form in between teeth, causing adult teeth to get stuck. The other thing that can cause problems is when baby teeth rot and are lost prematurely; the adult tooth then has a tendency to go off course as there’s no longer anything guiding it into position.

Once in a while a tooth can come in too early or very late due to an underlying reason like infection, trauma or general health problems such as vitamin A or D deficiency.

Tooth eruption tends to be a symmetrical process so if a tooth on the opposite side doesn't come down within six months of its pair then speak with your dentist. An X-ray to determine which teeth are present or haven't in fact formed can be taken and a plan for treatment decided upon.

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