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Are Children’s Mouths Different From Adult Mouths?

Inside the human mouth are four types of teeth: the incisors, canines, premolars and molars. Each type of teeth has a distinct shape and function that makes chewing possible. The front incisors are chisel-shaped to cut food. The canines are pointed and are used to cut food. The premolars and molars are large teeth with pointed cuspids and indented biting surface to crush, grind and tear food.

Adult Teeth

A typical adult will have eight incisors (four on the top and four on the bottom), four canines (two on the top and two on the bottom), eight premolars (four on the top and four on the bottom), and eight molars. Adults also have four additional molars, called wisdom teeth, that are in most cases pulled because there isn’t enough room in the mouth for them to grow without causing jaw or teeth alignment issues. In total, adults have 32 teeth or 28 teeth without the wisdom teeth.

Children’s Teeth

It can be puzzling how 32 teeth can fit into the mouths of small children. Children don’t actually have 32 teeth. They only have 20, with 10 on the top and 10 on the bottom. These teeth will begin to fall out to be replaced with their primary teeth around age six and will end by the time they begin their teen years. The wisdom teeth, however don’t grow in until the later teen years. With missing teeth, young children can have less than 20 for a brief amount of time.

Children have less teeth than adults because of how their teeth come in and develop. The incisors are the first baby teeth to come in, usually around six months of age, and are the first set of primary teeth to fall out, around age 6 or 7, and be replaced with permanent teeth. The incisors follow, then the premolars and finally the molars.

Children’s Dental Care

Some parents think that their children’s primary teeth don’t need to be cared for as they will inevitably fall out. Besides children having fewer teeth than adults, their teeth are more sensitive and delicate than adult teeth. The enamel of primary teeth is weaker than that of permanent adult teeth. This makes children’s teeth more vulnerable to injury, disease and decay. Children’s teeth are developing even during the process of the losing of primary teeth. While their primary teeth will fall out and be replaced with their adult teeth, disease and decay of their baby teeth can seep into and penetrate the permanent teeth growing in underneath them. This means it’s important for parents to adequately care for their children’s mouths before and during the process of losing their primary teeth.

Tooth decay, or cavities, is the leading childhood disease and it is easily preventable. The misunderstanding of the differences between adult and children mouths, specifically the teeth has led to the surge of tooth decay in children.

Poor oral hygiene and a poor diet, full of sugars and starches are usually the main suspects in pediatric tooth decay. Children, or a parent, should brush their teeth twice a day, using a small, child-sized toothbrush and child-safe toothpaste. Older children can be taught how to floss. Encouraging the consumption of water instead of sodas, fruit juices and sports drinks, can also help lower the risk of cavities. Limiting or cutting out the amount of candy, pastries, fruit snacks and other food items containing sugar, artificial ingredients, starches and simple carbohydrates (such as white bread), can help give children a healthy mouth as well as a healthy overall body.

Children’s teeth are fewer and more delicate than adult teeth. While adults have 32 teeth, young children have only 20. As children’s baby teeth inevitably fall out to make room for the permanent teeth that will replace them, they are not taken care of as well as they should. As a result, there has been a rise in pediatric tooth decay occurrences. A well-balanced diet combined with good oral hygiene can help prevent child tooth decay. Regular visits to the dental office is also an important part of proper oral care. If it has been longer than six months since your child has seen his or her pediatric dentist, make an appointment with him or today.