12-year molars” refer to the permanent second molars that are located on the upper and lower jaws. They are the second to last teeth before the wisdom teeth and individuals typically have four 12-year molars total. The 12-year molars acquire their nickname from the sole fact that they typically erupt around the ages of 11-13 years old when the head and neck are still developing. Some may even notice that the lower 12-year molars begin to erupt sooner than the uppers, do not be alarmed as this is normal.

Prior to tooth eruption, the 12-year molars are sitting underneath the gums. Once the 12-year molars begin to erupt, they puncture through the gum tissue where it may be possible to see the white cusps of the molars. If your child feels any pain or discomfort during this process, the second molars may be coming in sideways at an angle, which is defined as impaction. Impaction is a common occurrence and typically results if a tooth fails to erupt or if there isn’t enough space in the jaw for a tooth to come in.

Impaction can have negative results if not treated early on. Therefore, it is recommended to take your child to a pediatric dentist to establish care prior to permanent teeth coming in. When visiting with the pediatric dentist, they will be sure to take radiographs or panoramic images of your child’s mouth to ensure proper development of the jaws and teeth. They’ll look specifically for adequate spacing. If any impaction is noticed they will be able to discuss a treatment plan immediately. For more complex impaction cases, the pediatric dentist may provide referrals to an oral surgeon or orthodontist.

Frequently Asked Questions About Children’s Dental Development

When will I know if my child needs braces?
When your child is around the age of 6 to 8 and has a mix of baby and adult teeth, you’ll likely be able to tell whether they have any malocclusions or bite problems. Some malocclusions are easier to treat while your child’s jaw is still growing, making it important for you to get the opinion of an orthodontist early on.

When do wisdom teeth appear?
Also known as third molars, wisdom teeth typically make their appearance between the ages of 17 and 21. When your child reaches this age, they may not have enough room in their jaw to fit them in or they may erupt at an angle instead of vertically. If they have any of these issues, a dentist may recommend a wisdom teeth removal.

What causes baby teeth to fall out?
The pressure from the erupting permanent teeth will break down the roots of the baby teeth. As more of their root structure fades, the primary tooth will lose its attachment to the jawbone and eventually fall out.

How can I help my child keep their teeth in good shape?
As a a parent, you have the power to influence your child’s oral habits. Encourage them to brush and floss their teeth every day. If they are too young to do so on their own, be sure to help them out. Also, take them to the dentist every six months for a routine exam and cleaning.

Why are baby teeth important?
Although baby teeth fall out, their importance shouldn’t be overlooked. They act as placeholders for your child’s permanent teeth. Therefore, if they come out too soon, there may be issues with your child’s permanent teeth. The space they may leave can cause other baby teeth to drift into the space and increase the chances of orthodontic problems down the road.

Contact Little Smiles Pediatrics Today

If you’re concerned for your child regarding their 12-year molars or have yet to establish care with a pediatric dentist, please contact Little Smiles Pediatric Dentistry! Our pediatric dentist, Dr. Konz will be sure to answer any questions or discuss any concerns you have for your child’s oral health. At Little Smiles Pediatric Dentistry, we understand that the dentist may be frightening, which is why we are so proud of the fun and welcoming office environment that we have. Our staff is confident that your child will feel at ease during their visits with us.