Having an impeccable set of pearly whites is essential to looking and feeling your best. It's also an important part of your overall health. But having a great-looking grill doesn't always come easy. It takes a strong commitment to oral hygiene and maintaining a balanced diet. There is also a lot happening developmentally that can affect your teeth, starting before we're born and continuing though adulthood. In fact, when you consider everything that needs to happen on the long road to fully formed fangs, it's amazing that any of us are smiling at all.
In many ways, we all have our mothers to thank (or blame) for our smiles. Teeth begin forming during the sixth week of gestation, which is before many women know they are pregnant [source: American Dental Hygienists Association]. This is why a mother's diet is very important to the development of healthy teeth in her baby. Deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals, including calcium and Vitamin D, can result in weak or underdeveloped teeth [source: Medscape].
For parents, the first appearance of a baby's teeth marks an exciting right of passage on the road from helpless infant to adventurous toddler. The first to emerge are usually the two front teeth on the lower jaw [source: Children's Hospital Boston]. These are called the incisors, which are soon followed by the molars and the canines. Most kids have a full set of 20 primary or "baby" teeth by the third year of life.
The next big event in the development of healthy teeth occurs when the permanent or "adult" teeth begin to descend from the jaw, pushing the baby teeth out in the process. For most kids, this process begins around age 6 or 7 [source: Children's Hospital Boston]. By age 12, most kids have 28 adult teeth. The emergence of the wisdom teeth, usually between the ages of 17 and 21, completes the adult set of 32 teeth [source: KidsHealth]. At least, this is how it happens when everything goes according to plan. To understand what can go wrong, let's take a quick look at the science of permanent teeth formation.