People have two sets of teeth during their life: a set of primary or “baby”teeth and the permanent or “adult”teeth.
Besides helping children chew and pronounce
words, the primary teeth hold a place in the jaws
for the permanent teeth, which begin to push
through the gums as the primary teeth are shed.
While most children have 20 primary teeth—10
in each of the upper and lower jaws—these teeth
eventually are replaced by 32 permanent teeth, 16
in each jaw.
The first permanent molars usually erupt
between ages 6 and 7 years. For that reason, they
often are called the “six-year molars.” They are
among the “extra” permanent teeth in that they
don’t replace an existing primary tooth. These
important teeth sometimes are mistaken for pri-
mary teeth. However, they are permanent and must
be cared for properly if they are to last throughout
the child’s lifetime. The six-year molars also help
determine the shape of the lower face and affect the
position and health of other permanent teeth.
Most children have 28 of their permanent teeth
by age 13 years. These include four central incisors,
four lateral incisors, eight premolars, four canines
The last of the permanent teeth to appear are
called “third molars,” or “wisdom teeth.” They usu-
ally begin to erupt—pushing their way through the
gums—between ages 17 and 21 years. Because they
are so far back in the mouth, third molars often are
not needed for chewing and are difficult to keep
clean. Your dentist may recommend their removal
to prevent potential complications when third
molars are erupted partially or are impacted.
The chart and photograph identify the names of
the permanent teeth and provide the approximate
ages at which you can expect the teeth to erupt.
Heredity and other factors may influence the
approximate ages at which children’s primary teeth
shed and their permanent teeth emerge.
Thorough brushing and flossing help remove
food particles and plaque (a sticky film of bacteria)
from the smooth surfaces of teeth. But toothbrush
bristles cannot reach into the pits and fissures
(depressions and grooves) of the chewing surfaces to
Dental sealants protect these vulnerable areas
by sealing out debris and plaque bacteria. A sealant
is a plastic material that usually is applied to the
chewing surfaces of the back teeth—premolars and
molars—where decay occurs most often. The plastic
resin bonds into the pits and fissures of the chewing
surfaces of back teeth. The sealant acts as a bar-
rier, protecting enamel from plaque and acids.
Protect permanent teeth by brushing twice a day
with a fluoride toothpaste that has the ADA Seal of
Acceptance, cleaning between teeth once a day with
floss or another interdental cleaner and scheduling
regular dental visits.