New parents often wonder, when do babies get teeth? Just about any time a baby fusses or sticks a finger in his mouth, you can count on people asking sympathetically, “Oh dear, is he teething?” It’s enough to make a new parent worry about when this horrible experience will happen to their baby.
There’s no need to be afraid, though. Teething is a normal part of babyhood, and it’s not as terrible as it may seem. If you’re wondering about the adventure of teething, here are the facts to know.
When do babies get teeth?
Like most developmental milestones, there is a wide range of “normal.” Some babies don’t get teeth until they are nearly 18 months old, while there are rare instances of babies being born with teeth. Generally, babies get their first tooth between 4 and 7 months. When babies start teething depends on genetics. If you got teeth early then your baby probably will too. Girls tend to get teeth earlier than boys do.
People often assume babies are teething when they start putting their fingers in their mouth, but there may be another reason. Around 3 months old, many babies develop the dexterity to get their hands to their mouths, which is super fun when you’re a baby.
What is happening in that tiny mouth?
Your baby’s teeth started developing before they were even born, all the way back in the first trimester of pregnancy. Now that it’s time for them to make their big appearance, you can expect to see the bottom front teeth first. If they look like they’re coming in crooked, don’t worry. Baby teeth often come in at funny angles. As long as there is enough room for all the baby teeth, they will probably straighten out once they’re in place.
After those two first teeth, you can expect new teeth to arrive in symmetric pairs. After the first pair, one front upper tooth will poke through, followed by the other front upper tooth. By the time your child is about three, they will be proud owners of twenty primary teeth. At this point, the tooth activity will settle down for a few years, until age 6 or 7. Then those adorable little teeth will start falling out, usually in the order that they appeared. Around age 12 there will be no baby teeth left.
What are some signs of teething?
When do babies get teeth and how will I know? Some babies don’t show any symptoms. One morning you might go pick your baby up from her crib and be rewarded with a grin that includes a flash of white. However, some babies have a harder time. Symptoms of teething can include:
- an increase in drooling, which can lead to a rash around the mouth
- tender, swollen, red gums
- fussiness, especially at night
- increased chewing
- refusing food
- a slight increase in temperature (anything over 38˚C is probably not teething, but illness).
How can you help a teething baby?
If your baby is having a hard time with teething, there are a few things you can do to help.
- Offer something cool to chew on, like a damp washcloth that has been in the refrigerator.
- Massaging the gums with a clean finger sometimes eases discomfort.
- If none of these techniques help, and your baby seems very uncomfortable, a pain reliever can help, especially with sleeping at night. Check with your pediatrician for advice and dosage instructions.
Now that your baby has teeth, how do you care for them?
When they’re brand-new, all you have to do to take care of these new teeth is to wipe them twice a day with a soft, wet cloth or soft-bristled toothbrush. At 18 months you can use a low-fluoride toothpaste. You should take your baby to the dentist at age 1, or within 6 months of getting their first tooth. Early dental care is important to prevent cavities, especially in the first two years of life.
It’s important to take good care of baby teeth, even though they won’t be around for long. It develops good habits. Also, problems in primary teeth can affect the permanent teeth. Fluoride toothpaste has been demonstrated to reduce cavities. However, there are areas in South Australia that have high levels of naturally occurring fluoride in the water. If you live in one of these areas, the fluoride in toothpaste and mouthwashes can lead to fluorosis, which can damage teeth. But careful attention to fluoride use can prevent problems. Check with your dentist for information.
Interesting facts about teething
Your baby’s teeth aren’t just adorable. They’re important in lots of ways. Having teeth makes it possible to eat a whole new range of foods, which helps babies get the nutrition they need to stay healthy. Chewing those new foods helps encourage bone development in the jaw. Also, those baby teeth keep space in the jaw for the adult teeth to grow.
Teeth also are needed for language development. Without teeth, it’s hard to make certain sounds. As they learn to talk, babies need teeth to make the full range of sounds that we all use. Even if the arrival of new teeth brings some fussiness and sleep deprivation, they’re worth it! So don’t be afraid of the question, “When do babies get teeth?” It’s going to be just fine.