While there are things that can go wrong with tooth formation, most people develop healthy teeth on a fairly standard timetable. Around age 5, bone development has progressed enough to expand the facial bones of children, opening up space for the permanent teeth. Larger facial bones also explain why we are able to have more permanent (and larger) teeth than baby teeth. Baby teeth tend to be smaller and whiter.
Developing strong, healthy teeth is truly something to smile about. After all, the shape and position of the teeth can affect speech, eating, and the overall appearance of the face. But there are certain things that can cause tooth formation to take a wrong turn.
For example, children who experience delays in muscular development may also have delays in tooth formation [source: National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center]. Down syndrome and cerebral palsy are also linked with poorly formed teeth [source: National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center]. In some cases, one or more baby or adult teeth may not develop at all. This is common in children with oral clefts.
You may not always be able to control how your child's teeth develop, but there are some things you can do to help your kids achieve a joyful set of jaws, such as keeping the teeth clean throughout life. This includes baby teeth since decay in the early years can lead to eating and speech problems [source: American Dental Association]. Keeping teeth clean, with regular brushing and flossing, also ensures that a child remains free of cavities, pain, and oral infections that can cause permanent damage to the mouth and jaw.
Proper tooth formation is important for the overall health of children as well as adults. Evidence suggests that having a healthy mouth can reduce the risk of heart disease, sexual problems, and weight gain. And if all this doesn't have you diving for the dental floss, remember that taking care of your teeth is the best way to maintain a spectacular smile for life.