Your teeth - the basics

Teeth are necessary for survival – they make it possible for us to eat and to speak clearly. And no one can argue that a dazzling bright smile will stand you in good stead in the popularity stakes.

Here's a crash course in the basics of teeth and how to care for them:

Teeth develop in different phases. The first phase is the eruption of 20 primary (milk) teeth which usually starts when an infant is around seven months old. A child should have his/her milk teeth by two to three years of age. The second phase starts approximately three years later.

Tooth development starts in the womb. By the fourth month of pregnancy, the child's front teeth have already started to form. The lower front central teeth are usually the first to erupt at approximately six months of age, followed by the upper front central teeth at around seven months. The first primary molars are next, making their appearance at around 12 to 16 months.

This is followed by the eruption of the canines between 16 and 20 months and finally, the second molars at 20 to 30 months of age. All the primary teeth (20 in total i.e. 10 on top and 10 at the bottom) are usually present at the age of two years.

Permanent teeth

The first permanent tooth (first molars) can be expected to erupt at around six years of age and appear behind the last primary molar. The permanent teeth which are hidden below the surface of the gum move in an upward direction, the roots of the primary teeth resorb and they fall out. The front teeth are usually lost first at around six to eight years.

By the age of twelve, most children have all their permanent teeth (except their wisdom teeth which erupt at around 18 years of age). Variations in the eruption patterns may occur and delayed eruption of up to 10 to 12 months can still be considered normal and need not be a cause for concern.

Look after them

People lose teeth through caries, gum disease, illness trauma and several other causes. By taking simple steps, you can go a long way towards preserving your teeth for the rest of your life.

  • Brush your teeth and tongue twice a day.
  • Floss at least once a day.
  • Wear gum guards every time you participate in contact sport.
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