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FAMILY DENTISTRY: Stages of tooth development

11 April 2022

Fiona Davidson takes us through the stages of tooth development from the emergence of a child’s first milk tooth to the arrival of their final wisdom tooth well into adulthood.


The period that many parents dread and for many, rightly so as for some babies, it can be a painful time. Babies usually start teething between three and twelve months, most commonly around six months. By the time your little one reaches their third birthday, they should have all 20 primary (also known as ‘milk’ or ‘baby’) teeth in. Their lower front teeth are usually the first to make an appearance.

Visiting the dentist

We advise visiting the dentist about six months after their first tooth has popped through. This is in part, to check the health of the teeth and gums, but is also important to get your little one used to the dentist as early as possible. They will be very short appointments and usually dentists encourage little ones to touch equipment and enjoy the chair moving up and down and so on, and of course there is always a sticker!


While in some cases your child might only have their primary teeth for a few years, it is still essential that you take good care of them. It is also important to instill good dental care into your child’s daily routine from their first year.

As soon as that first glimmer of white appears, once the celebrations have subsided, get the toothbrush out. Pop a small dot of toothpaste on a very soft brush (ensure both are suitable from 0 years) and then then give them a little brush. It takes some getting used to when you’re a baby, so stick with it. Let your little one explore the brush, holding it and having a wee chew on it if they wish, making sure they are supervised at all times. When they are really small, sit them on your knee and let their head rest against your chest – this is a great position for brushing. It is also a good idea to brush your teeth at the same time, many babies like to see they are doing the same as their parents. Ideally you should also clean their gums at the same time. The silicon brushes that you put on your finger are perfect for this. Aim to brush their teeth and clean their gums twice a day.

If they are resistant, try to persevere, distract them by singing a song or do it while they are engrossed in their favourite book or TV programme. Also search YouTube for episodes of their favourite characters brushing their teeth and visiting the dentist, like Peppa and George visit the dentist. It’s worth persisting.

Losing teeth

Accidents aside, and I can tell you, I see a lot of patients who have bumped out a front tooth before they are due to fall out, children generally start losing their primary teeth around age six, but it can be as young as four or they might not fall out until after their eighth birthday. And generally, they lose all their primary teeth by the time they are 12. They usually fall out in the order in which they got them, so more often than not, the bottom front teeth are the first to greet the tooth fairy.

And don’t panic if you think their new teeth don’t look as new as they should. Adult teeth are rarely as pearly white as primary teeth. That said, if you have any concerns always check with your dentist. Brushing is now more important than ever and should be supervised until your child is around eight-years-old.

The 20 teeth that they lose are replaced by 32 adult teeth, with their growing jaws making room to accommodate the additional teeth. The four wisdom teeth will be the last to emerge, by which time, your child may well be a young adult. For some they never fully emerge.

Fissure sealing

Most adults remember having fissure sealing at some point in their childhood. Molars are more prone to decay due to their grooves and small hollows so the sealant helps protect these areas especially prone to decay. It’s a pain-free and quick process so absolutely nothing to worry about. Some believe good dental hygiene is enough to avoid dental decay so opt out. It is really down to personal preference and by no means essential. However, unlike a filling, which involves drilling and anaesthetic, many believe it better to think in terms of prevention rather than cure.

Children can join our dental care plan for as little as £1 a month. Get in touch to find out more. 

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