Posted by: Kate | January 20, 2009

Baby Teeth

M. was one of my classmates in graduate school.  We had a lot in common: young families, non-psychologist husbands, relocation for the purpose of school.  And yet we were never especially close, particularly after the first semester or so.  We got the kids together to play a few times – her daughters were just a few years older than Emily – and spent one memorable evening talking about all manner of subjects while sitting in a car for hours waiting for traffic to move after a county-fair fireworks display.  But, over the years, we developed different sets of friends and different priorities within the program, and at the end we parted ways cordially and without much emotion.

A successful graduate-school relationship, really, or at least one version of successful.  Not everyone needs to go on and be friends for life, or to heave a sigh of relief when it becomes clear that they’ll never have to see each other again.  There’s a reason that the words “happy” and “medium” hang out together, often.

Anyway, though, during one of those early conversations, M. said something that stayed with me.  Because her daughters were just a bit older than my own, there was a certain sense of prophecy and omniscience that I attributed to anything she said about parenting or childhood.  I don’t remember having this conscious thought, but if I had to explain it, it would be something to the effect that, “Her children have lived longer than mine and appear to be pleasant, likeable, well-adjusted sorts of people.  She must know what she’s doing.  It’s probably worth listening to her.”  Most of her pearls of parental wisdom, assuming she had pearls and shared them, have faded from my memory, but one of her observations lodged in my brain.

“Make sure you take a lot of photos when they get their first loose tooth,” she said.  “Because once those teeth fall out and the adult teeth come in, their whole face changes.”

I admit, I was a little bit skeptical.  I could see that her daughter’s full-sized teeth in a grammar-school-sized mouth seemed a little awkward, but I hadn’t known the child before then.  Maybe she had always been a little gawky.  Who knew?  I looked at my daughter and saw bright, inquisitive eyes and hair with a mind of its own, and I had a hard time imagining that her teeth would really have that much of an impact on her overall appearance.

But, being both an obedient soul at heart (stop snorting, Willem; I am, too) and possessing a tendency to take a lot of pictures under any circumstance, I have photos of my daughter before and after, and after and after again, as each tooth came loose, came out, and was replaced.

And it turns out, M. was right.  Emily’s face has changed.  Her wide-mouthed grins are uneven and somewhat snaggly right now, as her teeth continue to do their thing regardless of the day’s small dramas and enthusiasms.  They’re growing in slowly, and without photography it would be easy to miss.

A year ago, it was this:


And now, it is this:


Her face changed.  It’s subtle, almost ignorable, and yet indicative of any number of changes lined up and ready to thwap me upside the head with all of the grace and subtlety of a teenage girl.

Ready or not, here they come…



  1. I take lots of teeth pictures, too. I loved that when Ella’s top four teeth fell out – all pretty much at the same time – she had her baby smile back again. Now that the teeth are growing in, I’m glad I captured so many pictures.

    Lily just lost her two bottom teeth, and she looks like an entirely different girl. It’s amazing what a difference it makes.

  2. Your daughter is beautiful!

  3. By age 2, the top of childs head is over 90% adult size..

    but the lower head (jaw, Upper and lower jaw) is still undeveloped.

    as kids lose baby teeth, there jaw (and face grows) and yes, this changes there face..

    (just as losing all of ones teeth, and having the jaw line change (since the teeth keep upper and lower jaw separated) changes the very old..

    the top of the head grows a bit.. (muscle for the jaw pull on skull, (in boys this results in slight ridges of bone under their eye brows (in some boys/men heavy ridges.. which gives the face a masculine ‘look’–

    Teeth are a large part of what make a human face look human–an adult face look adult, and a kids face look childish…
    (people with big heads, and small teeth (and jaws) tend to look younger.. Vanna White is a good example (she is pushing 50, and its not just her trim figure.. she has a young looking face.. (big head, small jaw.)

  4. Thank you for the reminder, as Megan (6) is frantically wiggling her first truly loose tooth almost non-stop these days…

    Love your photos of E! Adorable.

  5. What sage advice! She is TOTALLY correct too. I look at pictures of my son from a year ago and I can’t believe the changes.

    Looking at Emily, I can see the subtle changes. Last year she still had that soft baby look to her – and now she is getting more angular. My son’s pictures are the same.

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