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See also Deciduous. "Baby teeth" redirects here. For the band of that name, see Baby Teeth (band).
A six year old girl's deciduous teeth, which are beginning to fall out.

Deciduous teeth, otherwise known as milk teeth, baby teeth, temporary teeth and primary teeth, are the first set of teeth in the growth development of humans and many other mammals. They develop during the embryonic stage of development and erupt—that is, they become visible in the mouth—during infancy. They are usually lost and replaced by permanent teeth, but in the absence of permanent replacements, they can remain functional for many years.

Deciduous teeth start to form during the embryo phase of pregnancy. The development of deciduous teeth starts at the sixth week of development as the dental lamina. This process starts at the midline and then spreads back into the posterior region. By the time the embryo is eight weeks old, there are ten areas on the upper and lower arches that will eventually become the deciduous dentition. These teeth will continue to form until they erupt in the mouth. In the deciduous dentition there are a total of twenty teeth: five per quadrant and ten per arch. The eruption of these teeth begins at the age of six months and continues until twenty-five to thirty-three months of age. Usually, the first teeth seen in the mouth are the mandibular centrals and the last are the maxillary second molars.

The deciduous dentition is made up of central incisors, lateral incisors, canines, first molars, and secondary molars; there is one in each quadrant, making a total of four of each tooth. All of these are replaced with a permanent counterpart except for the first and second molars; they are replaced by premolars. The deciduous teeth will remain until the age of six. At that time, the permanent teeth start to appear in the mouth resulting in mixed dentition. The erupting permanent teeth causes root resorption, where the permanent teeth push down on the roots of the deciduous teeth causing the roots to be dissolved and become absorbed by the forming permanent teeth. The process of shedding deciduous teeth and the replacement by permanent teeth is called exfoliation. This may last from age six to age twelve. By age twelve there usually are only permanent teeth remaining.

Teething age of deciduous teeth:

Various cultures have customs relating to the loss of deciduous teeth; see tooth fairy.

An eight-year old's deciduous teeth.

Deciduous teeth are considered essential in the development of the oral cavity by dental researchers and dentists. The permanent teeth replacements develop from the same tooth bud as the deciduous teeth; this provides a guide for permanent teeth eruption. Also the muscles of the jaw and the formation of the jaw bones depend on the primary teeth in order to maintain the proper space for permanent teeth. The roots of deciduous teeth provide an opening for the permanent teeth to erupt. These teeth are also needed for proper development of a child's speech and chewing of food.

See also


  • Ash, Major M. and Stanley J. Nelson, 2003. Wheeler’s Dental Anatomy, Physiology, and Occlusion. 8th edition.
  • Brand, Richard W., BS, DDS, and Donald E, Isselhard, BS, DDS. “Deciduous Dentition.” Anatomy of Oralfacial Structures. 1977. Ed. Shirley Kuhn and Kathrine Macciocca. 7th ed. St. Louis, Missouri: Mosby, 2003. 194–224.
  • “Dentition, Primary.” Mosby’s Dental Dictionary. Ed. Penny Rudolph and Jaime Pendill. St. Louis, Missouri, 2004.
  • LePeau, Nancy Sisty, RDH, MS, MA. “Pediatric Oral Health Care: Infancy through Age 5.” Clinical Practice of the Dental Hygienist. By Esther M. Wilkins. Ed. John Goucher and Kevin C. Dietz. 9th ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, n.d. 782–802.
  • “Primary Teeth.” Concise Medical Dictionary. Ed. Oxford University Press. 2002 ed. Oxford Reference Online. 2002. Oxford University. 31 Jan. 2006 <>.

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