Every child goes through a stage where their teeth fall out. If this were to happen to an adult, it would be a cause for concern but in the case of children, this is a natural process. Humans get two sets of teeth in their lifetime. The first set is known as milk teeth or baby teeth or primary teeth and a second set known as permanent teeth. Let’s look at what are the difference between milk teeth and permanent teeth.

difference between milk teeth and permanent teeth

What are milk teeth?

Babies get their first set of teeth around the 6-month milestone. A child usually has a full set of 20 milk teeth by the age of 3 years. These are small teeth that help a child learn how to chew solid food. They also act as placeholders for the permanent set of teeth.

Why are milk teeth called so?

There are two reasons why the first set of teeth we get are called milk teeth. One theory links the naming to the timing of eruption. Milk teeth usually make an appearance when a child is dependent on mother’s milk for nutrition. Hence, the term milk teeth.

Another reason they may have been named such is that the color of milk teeth is similar to that of milk.

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what are milk teeth and permanent teeth

What are permanent teeth?

Did you know that our teeth start developing while we’re still in our mother’s womb? When a child is 6-7 years old, the milk teeth will start to fall out and be replaced by permanent teeth. The permanent teeth push against the roots of the milk teeth and they gradually dissolve so that the visible part of the tooth falls out.

There are more permanent teeth as compared to milk teeth. By the time a child reaches the age of 13 years, they usually have 28 permanent teeth. A set is complete much later when the child grows up to be 21-25 years old. It is possible for a child to grow up with 30 or 31 teeth instead of 32.

Milk teeth and permanent teeth timeline

While every child will develop at their own pace, there is a general timeline that is usually followed.

Children usually start losing their milk teeth around the age of 6 years. By the time they are 8 years old, most children would have lost 8 milk teeth. These are usually the 4 upper and lower incisors.

Not much change is noted between the ages of 8 and 10 years. Then, between the age of 10 and 13 years, all the remaining milk teeth will fall out and be replaced by permanent teeth. Girls tend to lose their teeth faster than boys. They may lose all their milk teeth by the age of 11 years.

The third set of molars start developing around the age of 16 years. In many cases, these teeth need to be extracted and removed as they can crowd the other teeth and push them out of place.

What is the difference between milk teeth and permanent teeth?

Age if emergence is not the only milk teeth and permanent teeth difference. There are differences in the number of teeth in a complete set, the types of teeth and their structure.

If you were to write anyone difference between milk teeth and permanent teeth, it would be the number of teeth. A set of milk teeth contains 20 teeth. This includes 10 teeth in the upper jaw and 10 teeth in the lower jaw. Of the 20, 8 are incisors, 4 are canines and 8 are molars. There are no premolars. When the teeth appear, they may seem very close together but as the child grows older, the jawbone also expands and gaps will appear between the teeth.

On the other hand, there are 32 teeth in a complete permanent tooth set. There are 16 teeth on the upper and lower jaw each. The number of incisors and canines stays the same in milk teeth and permanent teeth. In addition to this, there are 8 premolars and 12 molars. The last set of molars, i.e., the last tooth on both sides of the upper and lower jaw are also known as wisdom teeth. These teeth are usually the last to appear.

How do you tell if a tooth is a milk tooth?

If your child is older and you’re explaining the difference between milk teeth and permanent teeth for class 7, you’ll need to go into the tooth structure and dental formula.

Milk teeth are smaller than permanent teeth. They also have a thinner enamel coating with a lower mineral density. This makes the teeth appear whiter. Permanent teeth are more calcified and less permeable. They may not appear as white as milk teeth. All permanent teeth have a yellowish shade- this can vary from one person to another.

In terms of their inner structure, milk teeth have a larger pulp chamber and shorter roots. This becomes important when they have to be pushed out by permanent teeth. If the roots were longer, they would take longer to be pushed out of the gums and the process might have been more painful. Permanent teeth have longer roots that ensure that they are held securely in the gums.

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What happens if milk teeth don’t fall out?

There are cases where the milk teeth may not fall out. One reason for this could be because the permanent teeth do not push against the roots of the milk teeth but push through the gums from behind or in front of the milk teeth. This condition is known as shark teeth – did you know that sharks have multiple rows of teeth?

Another reason could be because the teeth are too closely crowded together. This could keep the permanent teeth from being able to push through the gums. A third, but more uncommon reason could be because the corresponding permanent tooth has not developed.

If the tooth hasn’t fallen out but is loose, you could try to wiggle it about to help with the process. If it still doesn’t fall out after a week or two, you may need to consult a dentist. Based on an X-ray and other factors, the dentist may recommend extracting the tooth.

milk teeth and permanent teeth difference

Is it normal to still have baby teeth at 15?

An extraction isn’t always required if milk teeth don’t fall out on their own. In cases where an X-ray shows that the corresponding tooth hasn’t developed, a milk tooth may remain as long as it is healthy. If it is aligned to the rest of your teeth, there is no problem. There’s no real need to worry about does losing baby teeth late mean late puberty?

In other cases where the baby tooth is not aligned properly to the remaining teeth, it may increase the risk of gum disease and other dental issues. In such cases, dental treatment may be required.

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Caring for milk teeth and permanent teeth

Just because milk teeth will eventually fall out is not reason enough to ignore their care. Children must be taught to brush their teeth at an early age. Even while they are babies, care must be taken of their milk teeth. Baby toothbrushes with a child-friendly herbal toothpaste or herbal tooth powder can be used to keep the teeth clean. If cavities develop, they must be treated by a dentist. Cavities that are left unaddressed can cause infections that travel down into the gums. This can be painful for the child. Also note that if milk teeth are not looked after and they fall out prematurely, the new teeth emerging may be crowded and your child may need orthodontic treatment at a later age.

Ideally, whether you’re talking about milk teeth or permanent teeth, you should brush your teeth twice a day. Start your morning by brushing your teeth and make sure you brush your teeth before going to bed. Use a gentle toothbrush and a toothpaste or a tooth powder that gently cleans your teeth without being too abrasive. You must also use the right motion. Use a vertical direction that goes outwards from the gum line. Brush both sides of your teeth- the side you see when you smile and the back of the teeth. The chewing plane of the premolars and molars must also be brushed. If you feel food is stuck between your teeth, you may floss between the teeth to remove foreign particles.

Good teeth are important for your health

Your smile is not the only thing affected by your teeth. Of course, if you don’t care for your teeth, they may fall out prematurely affecting your appearance and your ability to eat your favorite foods. Not caring well enough for your teeth could cause infections that trigger other issues. While the connection is still not fully understood, poor dental health has been linked to cardiovascular diseases, pneumonia and complications in pregnancy. Hence, it is very important to instill the need for good dental care habits from an early age.

Ensure that your child brushes their teeth properly and maintain regular dental check-ups.  It’s never too early to give your child their first toothbrush!