How Many Teeth Do Kids Have?
20 Fingers, 20 Toes, 20 Teeth
Babies usually end up with 20 teeth, through a process that starts even before they can walk and that lasts well into toddlerhood.
Someday, your child may keep secrets from you. The arrival of each new tooth, though? You'll see that coming from a mile away. Your baby may scream, drool and fuss every time a new white spot pokes its way through those tender gums, so knowing how many times that will happen should help you figure out how many sleepless nights you have ahead of you. Most babies end up with a set of 20 teeth total, which arrive over the course of a few years. Expect a few tough days each time a new little tooth makes its appearance.
Baby Teeth by the Numbers
As in all things developmental, there are some fluctuations in what's considered normal when it comes to babies and teeth. However, it's safe to assume your child will end up with 20 teeth by the time all his baby teeth arrive, with 10 on the top and 10 on the bottom.
It's quite rare for infants to have more or fewer than 20 teeth, but it does occasionally happen. Some babies are even born with a tooth or two. A missing or extra tooth may interfere with the way the rest of the teeth grow in. That said, it's not necessarily the sign of a significant problem, so don't panic if you think your child might have an abnormal tooth pattern. Call your child's dentist if you have any concerns about the way his teeth are growing in.
The Teething Timeline
The entire teething process typically takes about two years from start to finish. You may see your baby's first tooth arrive as early as 3 months old or as late as 12 months or beyond. In most babies, the first tooth erupts between 4 and 7 months. Expect the rest of his teeth to come through at an average rate of about one per month, with the last teeth arriving when he's between 2 and 3 years old.
The bottom two front teeth are usually the first to arrive, followed by the top two front teeth. Next should be the incisors, or the teeth that bookend those middle teeth. The top incisors usually appear before the low incisors. At this point, your baby will have eight teeth.
After the incisors, the first molars are usually next. There are four altogether, appearing on the top and bottom near the back of your baby's mouth. Then the cuspids erupt, which fill the spaces between the incisors and first molars. The second molars, in the very back of the mouth, are the last to arrive. When those four teeth erupt, your baby's full set of 20 teeth are in place.
A baby's teeth usually arrive in pairs. That doesn't mean they'll push through the gums at exactly the same time, just that two teeth in a set (like both top incisors) should appear in succession.
Kids typically lose their teeth in the same order in which they came in, starting with the bottom middle ones. This process usually starts when the child is around 5 or 6 years old. The last teeth may not fall out until the age of 12 or 13. They'll be replaced by permanent teeth, of which your child should have 32.
It's important to talk to your child about what to do when a tooth is loose, because trying to force a tooth out before it's ready can cause lasting damage. Help your child ease out a loose tooth by grasping it with a piece of gauze and gently twisting. If the tooth doesn't come out easily, wait a few more days and try again.
Some parents choose to save the first lost baby tooth as a keepsake.
Caring for Kids' Teeth
Start brushing your baby's teeth from the day the first one erupts through the gums. Once a tooth arrives, it's susceptible to decay. Use a small, soft toothbrush made just for infants and a tiny smear of fluoridated toothpaste the size of a grain of rice. Brush all sides of any existing teeth twice a day. Continue brushing his teeth until he's old enough to do it himself, which usually happens when he's around 3 years old. At that time he can start using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. He'll still need supervision to make sure he does a thorough job.
It's time to schedule baby's first dentist appointment when that first tooth arrives. Don't use any floss or dental products in your baby's mouth without first consulting the dentist. Flossing your child's teeth isn't necessary until they're more tightly packed in his mouth, and the dentist should let you know when that task becomes necessary.