Dental Health and Your Child’s Teeth

girl cute

The following chart shows when your child’s primary teeth (also called baby teeth or deciduous teeth) should erupt and shed. Eruption times vary from child to child.

As seen from the chart, the first teeth begin to break through the gums at about 6 months of age. Usually, the first two teeth to erupt are the two bottom central incisors (the two bottom front teeth). Next, the top four front teeth emerge. After that, other teeth slowly begin to fill in, usually in pairs — on each side of the upper or lower jaw — until all 20 teeth (10 in the upper jaw and 10 in the lower jaw) have come in by the time the child is 2 ½ to 3 years old. The complete set of primary teeth is in the mouth from the age of 2 ½ to 3 years of age to 6 to 7 years of age.

   Primary Teeth Development Chart  

  Upper Teeth  When tooth emerges  When tooth falls out  

  Central incisor 8 to 12 months 6 to 7 years  

  Lateral incisor 9 to 13 months 7 to 8 years  

  Canine (cuspid) 16 to 22 months 10 to 12 years  

  First molar 13 to 19 months 9 to 11 years  

  Second molar 25 to 33 months 10 to 12 years  

  Lower Teeth  

  Second molar 23 to 31 months 10 to 12 years  

  First molar 14 to 18 months 9 to 11 years  

  Canine (cuspid) 17 to 23 months 9 to 12 years  

  Lateral incisor 10 to 16 months 7 to 8 years  

  Central incisor 6 to 10 months 6 to 7 years  

  Other primary tooth eruption facts:

  • A general rule of thumb is that for every 6 months of life, approximately 4 teeth will erupt.
  • Girls generally precede boys in tooth eruption.
  • Lower teeth usually erupt before upper teeth.
  • Teeth in both jaws usually erupt in pairs — one on the right and one on the left.
  • Primary teeth are smaller in size and whiter in color than the permanent teeth that will follow.
  • By the time a child is 2 to 3 years of age, all primary teeth should have erupted.

Shortly after age 4, the jaw and facial bones of the child begin to grow, creating spaces between the primary teeth. This is a perfectly natural growth process that provides the necessary space for the larger permanent teeth to emerge. Between the ages of 6 and 12, a mixture of both primary teeth and permanent teeth reside in the mouth.

Why Is it Important to Care for Baby Teeth?

While it’s true that baby teeth are only in the mouth for a short period, they play a vital role. Baby teeth:

  • Reserve space for their permanent counterparts
  • Give the face its normal appearance.
  • Aid in the development of clear speech.
  • Help attain good nutrition (missing or decayed teeth make it difficult to chew, causing children to reject foods)
  • Help give a healthy start to the permanent teeth (decay and infection in baby teeth can cause damage to the permanent teeth developing beneath them)

To understand the problems that decaying baby teeth can cause permanent teeth, see Oral Health Problems in Children.