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Learn About Deciduous Teeth

Deciduous teeth, or primary teeth, are the first set of teeth that humans and other mammals develop. They are eventually replaced by permanent teeth, that begin to grow in throughout childhood. Deciduous teeth actually begin to form during pregnancy, around the sixth week. Although rare, some babies are actually born with a set of deciduous teeth that have already erupted.

Normally, deciduous teeth begin to erupt around the age of six months. This is referred to as teething and usually continues until approximately thirty months of age. This period of tooth eruption is call the primary dentition period. The replacement of deciduous teeth by primary teeth generally begins around the age of six and lasts through the age of about twelve. The process of losing deciduous teeth and having them replaced by permanent teeth is called exfoliation.

Deciduous teeth are important in the development of the oral cavity. They help to maintain the proper arch length within the jaw and provide a sort of guide for the pathway of permanent teeth that begin to erupt. The formation of jaw muscles and jaw bones are also dependent on primary teeth, that help to maintain proper spacing for the eventual permanent teeth. Primary teeth are also incredibly important in the speech development of children in addition to playing a role in chewing food.

Throughout the world, there are different cultural traditions regarding deciduous teeth. In many English speaking countries including the United States, the tooth fairy is a popular figure who rewards children for losing their baby teeth. Typically, kids will place their tooth under their pillow at night and the tooth fairy will replace it with a small gift or money. In countries such as Greece, Turkey, and Mexico, it is common for children to throw their baby teeth up onto the roof of their homes while making a wish. In Japan, it is believed that permanent teeth will grow in straight if kids take their baby teeth and throw the upper teeth on the ground, while throwing the lower teeth up in the air.

When deciduous teeth do not fall out as they are supposed to, it can cause dental issues with the permanent teeth growing in. Even though deciduous teeth eventually fall out, it is still important to take proper care of them through brushing and flossing to ensure that the permanent teeth have a healthy mouth to grow into.

More Information on Deciduous Teeth

  • Baby Teeth Eruption Charts – Learn about the eruption of primary teeth and permanent teeth with charts from the American Dental Association.
  • Teeth Types and Growth – An overview of the different types of teeth and their growth and development.
  • Milk Teeth and the Replacement of Teeth – An article about the tooth replacement pattern in humans and other mammals.
  • Dental Anatomy – The dental anatomy of mammals, includes information on incisors, canines, premolars, and molars.
  • The Mouth, Tongue, and Teeth – An overview of basic human anatomy, mainly the mouth and palate, and other parts of the oral cavity.
  • Anatomy and Development of Mouth and Teeth – Helpful information for parents on the development of the mouth and permanent teeth.
  • Tooth Talk – A site for early childhood educators providing information on teaching kids about teeth and dental health.
  • Baby vs. Adult Teeth – An article that explains the difference between baby and adult teeth.
  • Getting Baby Teeth – Information for parents about teething, in particular kids who start teething late.
  • Tooth Decay in Young Children – Information on how to prevent tooth decay in young children, and the importance of caring for deciduous teeth.


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