Farquhar & Milne: Changes from baby to permanent teeth

An example of a shark teeth appearance in a child’s mouth, where  permanent and baby teeth are present at the same time.  - Contributed
An example of a shark teeth appearance in a child’s mouth, where permanent and baby teeth are present at the same time.
— image credit: Contributed

In keeping with our last dental column about teething, there is a question related to teething that arises often in the dental office, and causes many parents a great deal of concern.

That question is: What happens when there are permanent teeth coming in while the baby teeth are still present?

The switch from baby teeth to permanent teeth is a process that has a few stages.

The first stage happens between ages 6 and 8, when the front teeth change over and the six-year permanent molars erupt.

The second stage is between ages 8 and 10, when very little changes from a teething standpoint, but there is much growth.

The final stage is between ages 10 and 12, when the primary molars and canines fall out and the permanent canine and premolars come in.

Very often, the first teeth to come in are also the first to fall out.

The lower front incisors start to loosen on average anywhere between ages 5 and 7.

As the permanent teeth that follow begin to erupt, often they will break the surface behind the baby teeth that are still present.

As that unfolds, you will notice some obvious differences between the baby teeth and the permanent teeth.

The new teeth coming in are much larger, generally much more yellow in colour and have “bumps” on the top/edge of the teeth.

Permanent teeth, like primary or baby teeth, are full-size when they erupt, which is to say they don’t grow over time.

So when a child’s new front teeth come in, they are the same size, or very close, to that of the parents’ teeth.

This is why kids have the “awkward” appearance as the front teeth come in.

It also means that since their mouth is smaller than an adult’s, at this stage of development children will often display a degree of crowding of the front teeth, especially in the bottom.

Often this crowding will resolve over time as the baby teeth further back start to fall out later, between ages 10 and 12.

Permanent teeth are also different from primary teeth with regards to composition.

These new teeth have thicker enamel and dentin elements that are more yellow than in baby teeth.

The result is that permanent teeth are more yellow in appearance, but rest assured, this is normal. The bumps, called mamelons, are normal and will generally wear off within the first few years of the tooth being present in the mouth.

In some cases, the permanent teeth will erupt quite a bit before the baby teeth fall out, giving the “shark teeth” appearance,  where there are two rows of teeth present at the same time.

When that happens, the majority of the time that situation resolves itself without the need for professional assistance.

Occasionally, however, the baby teeth will need help coming out, a scenario familiar to your dentist that he or she would be happy to discuss with you.

If you have any questions or concerns related to these or any other dental issues, feel free to contact your family dentist, or our office for advice.


Just as an aside, halfway through writing this column, Terry Farquhar’s six-year-old son lost his second baby tooth.

A proud, yet strangely ironic, moment…and yes, he had shark teeth.

Alan Milnes and Terry Farquhar are certified specialists in pediatric dentistry at 101-180 Cooper Rd.




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