Most babies are born with all 20 teeth hidden just under the gums. At about 6 to 12 months of age, these baby teeth will start to appear. This process is known as teething. The lower front teeth tend to appear first, followed by the upper teeth. This pattern will continue slowly working towards the back of the mouth. By age three, most children have all 20 baby teeth.
What to expect
It’s common for babies to be fussier than normal when their baby teeth are coming in, but every baby reacts differently. Their fussiness is caused by the swelling and soreness that takes place along the gums about three to five days before the incoming tooth breaks the skin. You may notice your baby munching on their fingers or toys to help relieve that pressure. They also may be hesitant to eat and drink, and have trouble sleeping due to the discomfort.
Gently rubbing your baby’s gums with a clean finger, a small spoon, or moist gauze pad can provide the child a surprising amount of relief. A clean teether can also help, and gives your child the independence to gnaw as needed. When it comes to teethers, look for solid rubber and avoid liquid-filled rings or hard plastic toys that could break. Your child’s teether will be spending a LOT of time in their mouth. Though toys may be marketed as teethers and presumed safe, it doesn’t hurt to take a deeper look at how it’s made to make sure you’re avoiding potentially hazardous chemicals or possible choking. If you’re ever not sure, don’t hesitate check with your family dentist or primary care provider!
What about numbing gels or teething tablets?
According to the Food and Drug Administration, it is recommended that parents and caregivers refrain from using benzocaine products for children younger than the age of two, except in special cases and when monitored closely by a licensed health professional. Benzocaine is the active ingredient in products like Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel and Orabase. Homeopathic teething tablets also pose a risk, as the FDA cannot evaluate, approve, or control the presence of potentially hazardous substances.
What if my baby’s symptoms don’t improve?
If your child cannot find relief, your dentist may be able to help find a solution. It’s common for babies to drool excessively while teething, and they may develop a mild rash on the chin or chest from the extra moisture. This will typically resolve itself, but if at any point they experience diarrhea, fever, or their rash doesn’t improve or worsens, contact your pediatrician.
After your child’s first tooth appears, schedule a dentist appointment for them. Your dentist can give you some teething pointers and show you how to properly care for their teeth as they come in.
Getting teeth is an exciting milestone for both parent and child alike. Build on the excitement, talk to them about their teeth, and practice healthy routines at home that will keep them smiling bright for years to come!