Curious Kids: Why do we lose our baby teeth?

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

In partnership with The Conversation, #Trending brings you Curious Kids, a series where we ask experts to answer questions from kids.

In partnership with The Conversation, #Trending brings you Curious Kids, a series where we ask experts to answer questions from kids.

Why do we lose our baby teeth? – Jack (8)

Mihiri Silva, paediatric dentist and PhD candidate, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute:

We often don’t notice, but at the same time that our first baby teeth start to fall out we also get new teeth at the back of our mouths. These are our first adult molar teeth.

By around our sixth birthday, we might start to see and feel some changes in our mouths. Our baby teeth are becoming worn down from all the biting and chewing they have done. We have also grown bigger, and our jaws and mouths have grown too.

So it’s time for some bigger teeth.

Teeth stay in the mouth because, like trees, they have roots that hold them in our jaws.

Tooth roots are usually long and smooth. Front teeth usually have only one root, but back teeth can have as many as three roots. When the time is right, our bodies have special cells that slowly eat away the roots of the teeth. As the roots get shorter, the teeth start to become loose. Finally, most of the root disappears and the tooth falls out!

Not long after, a new adult tooth will start to peek through the gap left by the baby tooth.

Adult teeth can look a bit funny at the start – they are usually a bit yellower, can have bumps and grooves, and are much bigger. They also have much longer roots. Adult teeth are made this way so that they are strong enough to last our entire lifetimes. You’ll be chewing food for many, many decades to come. That’s a lot of food to chew through!

People get two sets of teeth because this is what works best for the way we eat and grow.

  • To read the rest of Silva’s answer, got to the conversation.co.za

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