If you aren’t thinking about teeth, you likely will be soon. Although teething can start as early as four months of age, or as late as 12 months of age, most babies start teething around six months.
During teething, your baby’s new teeth will “erupt” through the thin skin of the gums. While teething doesn’t bother some babies, it can be uncomfortable. He or she may experience symptoms such as fussiness, drooling, and a harder time eating due to hurting gums. Some babies may get a mild fever from teething, but it’s best not to simply attribute a fever to strictly teething. You may want to get your baby checked out if you’re not certain that teething is causing the fever.
While researchers don’t know exactly why humans have two sets of teeth, there are some pretty good theories. The main one is that a baby couldn’t fit adult teeth in his or her mouth. Plus, babies tend to have about 20 teeth, while adults have anywhere from 28 to 32.
Baby teeth care
Although baby teeth will ultimately fall out, starting at about 5 or 6 years old, they’re still very important to your child’s future dental health. Decay in baby teeth can lead to decay in adult teeth. There are some steps you can take to care for baby teeth to ensure that, when adult teeth do start coming in, they’ll be healthy.
- Take baby to the dentist about six months after the first tooth appears or by 12 months at the latest, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Don’t let your baby fall asleep with a bottle. Doing so could lead to early cavities, which are sometimes called baby bottle tooth decay.
- Rub the gums with a soft, wet washcloth before teeth come in to start the cleaning process. When a tooth appears, you can start to brush it with a soft toothbrush and a small smear (the size of a grain of rice) of pediatric toothpaste with fluoride. Your baby may not like having something in his or her mouth, but it sets the stage for easier tooth brushing later.
- Don’t dip a pacifier in sugar or honey. While it may calm your baby down temporarily, it’s not good for the new teeth.
Teething typically follows a predictable pattern. Your baby will probably get the two lower, front teeth first. Following these appearances, you can expect your baby’s teeth to appear in the following order for the upper teeth, according to the American Dental Association:
- 8 to 12 months: front middle two teeth (central incisors)
- 9 to 13 months: teeth on either side of central incisors (lateral incisors)
- 16 to 22 months: canines (cuspids)
- 13 to 19 months: first molars
- 25 to 33 months: second molars
You can expect to see baby’s lower teeth around the following timeline:
- 6 to 10 months: lower middle two teeth (central incisors)
- 10 to 16 months: teeth on either side of central incisors (lateral incisors)
- 17 to 23 months: canines (cuspids)
- 14 to 18 months: first molars (large teeth in the back of the mouth)
- 23 to 31 months: second molars
Help for hurting teeth
If your baby is extra fussy or having a hard time with teething, there are a few dos and don’ts when it comes to teething:
Do: Massage baby’s gums with either your clean finger or a cool, damp washcloth.
Do: Give your baby a teething ring, especially those intended for cooling in the freezer to help numb your baby’s gums.
Don’t: Give too much acetaminophen or ibuprofen — check with your pediatrician for the proper dose before giving the medication because the dosage is typically weight-based.
Explore more about symptoms, pain relief, and red flags during teething with Dr. Kristie Rivers.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, July 2019