Growing Up With Your Teeth: How Your Mouth Matures With You
Day by day, humans grow from babies to children to adults, and every part of the body is involved in this process. The changes that occur in the mouth start early and continue throughout childhood and adolescence. Understanding what is happening in your mouth and how to best care for it is an important part of being a healthy person. Taking care of our mouths is part of taking care of our health.
At 4 to 6 months old, a baby will get their first tooth. As the months go on, more and more teeth pop through the gums. By three years old, a full set of 20 baby teeth will have grown. That’s usually it until you’re 5 or 6. At that point, a child will start to feel a little wiggle in one or more of their teeth. The loosening of teeth happens when adult teeth begin to come in and push on the baby teeth. Usually, the bottom front teeth go first, then the top front teeth. This process of losing baby teeth and erupting adult teeth goes on until a child is 10 to 12 years old.
The way we care for our mouth changes over time as well. A toothbrush is an important tool in our dental health routine. When a child first gets their teeth, they need a toothbrush that fits easily in their small mouth and has soft bristles. When children are a little older, they are ready to be more independent with their tooth-brushing. Toothbrushes for children ages 5-8 are a bit larger and designed for the mix of baby and adult teeth present at this stage. By preadolescence, toothbrushes are just a slightly smaller version of the adult model. Once all adult teeth have come in, an adult toothbrush is in order. In addition to using the right brush, brushing properly and regularly is key to tooth care.
When the adult teeth have come in, you may notice some issues. The teeth may have come in a little crooked, or maybe they don’t fit together quite right. Maybe they all just don’t quite fit in your mouth. If any of this is true, it may be time for braces. Most of the time, orthodontic problems are genetic. Sometimes, they are the result of thumb- or finger-sucking or even poor nutrition. Whatever the case, braces can usually fix the problem. Braces are important not just for cosmetic reasons but also to have a healthy mouth. Braces work by applying pressure a little bit at a time over an extended period. Traditional braces consist of a bracket attached to each tooth and wires connecting them all. The wire is changed periodically to help move the teeth. Sometimes, removable aligners are used instead of the brackets and wires. Orthodontic treatment usually begins between the ages of 8 and 14 and usually lasts one to three years.
One of the past dental issues young people have to contend with as they become adults is their wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth are the final set of molars. They usually erupt when people are in their late teens. They often come in misaligned and can cause a lot of dental problems. Sometimes they are impacted, which means they don’t come through the gums all the way. Impacted wisdom teeth can cause pain and swelling in the jaw, headaches, and even bad breath. When they are a problem, they must come out. An oral surgeon will be the one to perform the surgery to remove wisdom teeth. The procedure is usually quick, and it takes a few days to a few weeks to recover.
Tonsils are another part of your mouth that can cause problems for children as they grow up. Tonsils are soft tissue masses that are located in the back of the throat. They are a part of the lymphatic system and help us fight off infections, but the tonsils themselves can become infected. Tonsillitis is the name for an infection in the tonsils. Tonsillitis can be treated with antibiotics, but some people get these infections over and over again. In those cases, the tonsils may need to be removed in a procedure called a tonsillectomy.
To learn more about the elements of your mouth and their care, visit the following resources:
- Children’s Oral Health
- Anatomy and Development of the Mouth and Teeth
- Baby’s First Teeth: Seven Facts Parents Should Know
- Tiny Teeth
- Why Don’t Baby Teeth Grow Up?
- Brushing and Toothpaste for Children
- Cleaning Children’s Teeth
- The Best Toothbrush for Children 9-13
- Are Sonic Toothbrushes Really Better?
- Tips for Helping Kids With Sensory Issues Brush Their Teeth
- When to Begin Tooth-Brushing
- Dental Care for School-Age Children
- Mouth Healthy A-Z: Braces
- Orthodontic Treatment: Braces
- Know Your Teeth: Why Do People Get Braces?
- Dental Health and Wisdom Teeth
- Wisdom Tooth Extraction: What to Expect
- About Tonsillitis
- Tonisllitis vs. Strep Throat
- Tonsillectomy: What to Expect
- The Educator’s Guide to Oral Health
- Taking Care of Your Teeth
- Facts About Tooth Decay
- Preventing Kids’ Cavities
- Tooth Decay in Children
- Wisdom Teeth: Should They Stay or Go?
- Decay Dilemmas
- What Are Dental Sealants?