January 31, 2023

When we think of tooth development, we often think of a baby cutting its first teeth.

But tooth development – known scientifically as odontogenesis – actually begins in the womb.

Anatomy Of A Tooth

Before discussing how teeth develop, it’s important to understand a bit about tooth anatomy and the four major tissues that comprise a tooth. Those four tissues are – enamel, cementum, dentin and pulp.

The crown of a tooth is covered with enamel- which is the hardest and most concentrated mineralized substance in the body. The cementum is a bony substance that covers a tooth’s root. Dentin is a connective tissue located between the enamel or cementum and the dental pulp chamber that helps support the crown of the tooth.The pulp is located in the center of the tooth and contains soft connective tissue filled with blood vessels and nerves.

How Teeth Develop

Odontogenesis is the process where teeth form from embryonic cells, grow and eventually erupt from the gums. The four stages of tooth development are the bud stage, the cap, the bell and maturation.

Healthy teeth require the proper development of dentin, enamel, periodontium and cementum during the appropriate fetal development stages.

The primary teeth- also commonly called baby teeth- begin to form in the jawbone between six and eight weeks after conception. Permanent teeth start to develop at 20 weeks.

Teeth must begin to develop at these points of gestation or they will not develop at all.

Teeth are created through a protein matrix mineralization process. Although this process begins in the womb, it actually isn’t completed until late adolescence, when growth of the root structure is completed.

It is interesting to note that a majority of babies are born without their teeth showing, but about one in 2,000 babies has a visible tooth at birth.

Requirements for Healthy Tooth Development

The mother plays a significant role in the development of her baby’s teeth. Having a healthy diet and proper nutrition helps ensure that the baby receives the minerals and nutrients it needs to develop healthy teeth.

Women who suffer from severe nutrient deficiencies during their pregnancy increase the likelihood that their baby will be born with dental malformations or that they will be more susceptible to tooth decay as they mature, according to information posted by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association.

Healthy tooth development and maintenance requires a variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C and D and fluoride, calcium and phosphorous.