We have all gone through the phase during our childhood where we would lose a tooth and a new one would already be ready below it. As humans, we have two sets of teeth that erupt during our lifetime – the first set is called as milk teeth, primary teeth or baby teeth and they start erupting when we are 6 months old and the next set of teeth, called permanent teeth, begin erupting as we turn 6 years old. Many of us may have asked our parents or elders “Why are my teeth falling?”. But, have you ever wondered -” What is the difference between milk teeth and permanent teeth?” or “why do we need two sets of teeth?”

Why do We Have Two Sets of Teeth?

Before we get to the difference between milk teeth and permanent teeth, let’s understand why we need two sets of teeth in the first place. Did you know that tooth formation occurs while the baby is still inside the uterus?

However, these do not erupt into the mouth, barring some exceptions, until the child turns 6-7 months old. These teeth are called milk teeth, baby teeth or deciduous teeth(because they fall off eventually).

While this may be one of the basic difference between milk teeth and permanent teeth, that’s not all! When the first set of teeth appear, the individual is just an infant and growth has only just begun. The milk teeth, which are smaller than the permanent teeth, are easy to fit into the jaw size of the child.

While this is another significant difference between milk teeth and permanent teeth, it still does not answer why we need two sets of teeth.

Milk teeth are very important for the normal growth and development of a child and in fact, as important as your permanent teeth. Though there is a significant difference between milk teeth and permanent teeth, milk teeth perform certain important functions until the permanent teeth can take over.

difference between milk teeth and permanent teeth

Here’s how milk teeth help:-

  • They help the child bite and chew which is essential for the child to gain proper nutrition during his/her early years
  • They allow the proper development of speech
  • They create and hold space for the eruption of permanent teeth in the jaws
  • They ensure proper tooth alignment when the permanent teeth begin to erupt
  • They build confidence and self-esteem in the child wherein children with good dental hygiene and healthy teeth tend to ooze more confidence as compared to those who have poor oral hygiene and missing milk teeth

Many a time, parents feel that their child’s milk teeth or baby teeth are not important and refused to get these teeth treated. If you believe the same, remember that your child’s milk teeth are just as important as their permanent teeth.

Yes, there is a difference between milk teeth and permanent teeth that may make milk teeth seem unimportant, but remember, milk teeth pave the way for healthy, properly aligned permanent teeth in your child.

Expert opinion

  • Dr. Manan Dhulia Dental Director of Sabka dentist says “Each of us has two sets of teeth during our lifetimes –Milk teeth and Permanent teeth.”
  • Dr. Reena Waghela Dental Director of Sabka dentist says “Milk teeth are just as important as permanent teeth and need as much care too.”
  • Dr. Jena Shah Dental Director of Sabka dentist says “There are significant differences between milk and permanent teeth in terms of their number, size, colour, texture and composition.”

Difference Between Milk Teeth and Permanent Teeth

So far, we saw that some difference between milk teeth and permanent teeth exists. However, let’s elaborate a bit on this!

Size

The most evident difference between milk teeth and permanent teeth is their size. Ask anyone and this is probably the first thing they would say, including children. Milk teeth are smaller than their permanent counterparts for the simple reason that they erupt very early on in the life of an individual when the lager permanent teeth cannot fit in their jaws.

Number

The next obvious difference between milk teeth and permanent teeth is the number of teeth. While we all have 32 permanent teeth, milk teeth are just 20 in number.

The 20 primary or milk teeth include – two pairs of upper and lower incisors, one pair of canines in each jaw, one pair of first molars and one pair of second molars in each jaw.

However, in the permanent dentition, in addition to the teeth present in the milk teeth set, we also have two pairs of premolars in each jaw and one pair of third molars in each jaw, taking the count to a total of 32 teeth.

Composition

The next difference between primary and permanent teeth is that the enamel layer on the primary teeth is much thinner than that in permanent teeth.

This difference between deciduous and permanent teeth is important because thinner enamel allows cavities to spread quickly. A thin enamel also means less surface area to bond cavity-filling material on the tooth when a part of the tooth has been lost to decay or fracture.

Softer than permanent teeth

In addition to the enamel in milk teeth being thinner, it is also softer than that found in permanent teeth. This has a clinical significance as thinner enamel means that bacterial acids can dissolve it faster, leading to rampant caries in milk teeth as compared to permanent teeth.

This difference between milk teeth and permanent teeth is also important because a softer enamel also means it is susceptible to strong acids, sodas, juices and other food items that can break it down and result in cavities.

Soft enamel also makes it easy to grind it, especially in kids who have the habit of grinding or clenching their teeth.

Colour

If you ever noticed carefully, the milk teeth are whiter than their permanent counterparts. This is usually evident only when the permanent teeth begin to erupt adjacent to existing milk teeth.

This difference between primary and permanent teeth worries parents who visit their dentist with questions like “My child’s teeth are turning yellow. What do I do?”

Large Pulp Chambers

Milk teeth have large pulp chambers, which is that part of the tooth that contains the nerves and blood vessels. Why is this important? Well, larger pulp chambers along with thinner enamel mean that even small cavities can result in the teeth infection and infection of surrounding tissues.

Apart from dental cavities, large pulp chambers also mean that slightest of trauma to the milk teeth can result in nerve inflammation and subsequent infection.

The difference between primary and permanent teeth are important as they determine the dynamics of dental diseases inside the individual’s mouth. This ability to distinguish between milk teeth and permanent teeth is very critical for a dental practitioner as this helps him/her chart a treatment plan when the need arises.

At Sabka Dentist clinics, our dentists are experts in treating and preventing cavities and other dental infections that affect both milk teeth as well as permanent teeth. Have more queries? Contact us today!

References

  • Deciduous Teeth
  • Teeth Eruption Charts
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    147 thoughts on “Permanent Teeth vs. Milk Teeth

    • sonal

      good article!

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      Good article ?

      View all 2 replies
      • Mukesh Jaiswar

        Difference between milk teeth n permanent teeth explain well.

      • Ramla shaikh

        Very Helpful ??

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      Nce?

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      Informative Article

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      Thanks for information

      View all 3 replies
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    • Priya

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    • Zita

      Very helpful especially for moms to know about the milk and permanent teeth of their little ones .

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      No wonder they get so cranky while teething

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