Articles The life of teeth

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Humans have two sets of teeth; the first set is commonly known as milk, baby or deciduous teeth and the second set is usually referred to as permanent teeth.

Where it all begins

Milk teeth usually start to develop at the age of around six months, although some babies may start to develop them earlier and some may not have any teeth until much later. Most children have all twenty milk teeth by the age of two. Children have incisors, canines and molars; the molar are later replaced by adult premolars.

Milk teeth are smaller than adult teeth; this is to ensure that they fit in the child’s jaw, as the jaw is smaller. As the jaw grows, more teeth develop and by the time a child has all their adult teeth they will have 32 teeth.

Most children start to lose their milk teeth at the age of five or six, although there has been an increase in the number of younger children losing teeth. Some dentists have reported seeing children as young as two years old who need to have teeth extracted due to extensive decay. Most children lose all their baby teeth by the age of 13 and have all their adult teeth by the age of 14; between the ages of 6 and 14 the adult teeth start to erupt. Wisdom teeth, which are located right at the back of the mouth, do not tend to erupt until the age of at least 17. However, some people will get them much later and some people never get wisdom teeth. Often, people experience problems with wisdom teeth as there may not be much room in the jaw when they erupt; in many cases, the wisdom teeth may have to be removed.

Teeth to last you a lifetime

The permanent set of teeth is made up of 32 teeth; this includes eight incisors, four canines, eight premolars, eight molars and four wisdom teeth (also known as third molars). Each type of tooth has a different function; canine teeth are pointed and are used for shredding, cutting and tearing food, while molars are hard and flat, with a large surface area used for grinding and chewing food.

The teeth are designed primarily for breaking down and chewing food but they also have other important functions, including supporting the cheeks; if you lose teeth, you may find that your cheeks start to sag.

The teeth are very hard and should be durable if they are looked after properly; teeth need to be cleaned and polished on a regular basis and everyone should take time to fulfil a good daily oral hygiene routine. This routine should include brushing the teeth twice a day for at least two minutes each time and using mouthwash and dental floss on a regular basis. It is also important to visit the dentist for a check-up every six to twelve months.

Take care of your gnashers

Teeth can often be damaged or broken; this is usually the result of an accident on injury. If a tooth is lost, it can be salvaged if the broken piece of the tooth is found and stored in cool water or milk and the patient can see a dentist quickly. If the tooth is lost, either through injury or as a result of extensive tooth decay, it can be replaced using dentures or dental implants. It is important to replace missing teeth because gaps in the teeth can lead to problems with occlusion (also known as the ‘bite’) which may affect the ability to speak and eat. Gaps in the teeth can also make people feel unattractive and may make people look older.

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