When Do Babies Start Teething?

The Naked Tooth: What to Expect When Your Baby Starts Teething

Poor baby! Teething normally starts in the middle of a baby's first year, but some infants follow their own schedules.

Someday, you'll love seeing those teeth. You'll cherish those moments when your child's mouth drops open in awe, when she smiles so widely in your Christmas morning photos, when that nagging loose tooth finally falls out. But those days are a long way off, and seeing teeth pop through your child's gums may inspire a feeling more akin to dread than joy. While teething is a sign that your baby is developing normally, it also tends to forecast some imminent growing pains. The process can start in a baby as young as 3 months old, but most infants start teething between 4 and 7 months of age.

Teething: A Timeline

First things first: Even if your friend's baby was born the same day as yours, he or she may start teething months apart. It's totally normal for the process to start at any point between 3 and 7 months of age, or even later than that.

Your baby will ultimately end up with 20 teeth. Generally, the middle bottom teeth are the first to appear, followed by the four middle top teeth. The last teeth to appear are the second molars in the back of the mouth. Teeth generally erupt in pairs.

Your baby may prove to be a predictable teether, with little white caps appearing like clockwork every three months. Or she may keep you on your toes, with six teeth erupting over six months, followed by nothing for months. One good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that, generally speaking, about four teeth should erupt for every six months of life. If that timeline proves accurate for your baby, she'll have four teeth around 6 months, eight teeth by her first birthday, and so on, ending with the second molars appearing by the time she's 2.5. In some children, the second molars don't appear until closer to 3.

Signs of Teething

Oh, baby! Your baby will enjoy using those teeth soon enough. But first, they're going to hurt. Even if you can't spot the buds of the erupting teeth, you'll be able to tell they're coming in if your baby is drooling excessively, has red or swollen gums, wants to chew on everything, and/or seems fussier and more irritable than usual. Sometimes teething is accompanied by a minor fever, which shouldn't exceed 101 degrees F.

Helping Your Cranky Teether

Your grandmother might swear by rubbing whiskey on teething gums, but alcohol and infants don't mix. The best thing you can do for your teething baby is to provide firm rubber teething rings for her to chew. Rubbing the gums with your clean finger or a cold, wet piece of gauze may also provide some relief.

Talk to your pediatrician before attempting any other soothing strategy, as some teething products available on the market may be unsafe. For instance, some teething tablets and gels contain ingredients that can have serious side effects. You also should consult with your doctor before giving your child any pain medication.

When to Seek Help

If your baby's first birthday is only a few months away, and you haven't spotted any teeth yet, it's worth mentioning to your pediatrician. However, she'll probably tell you to just be patient; after all, there's nothing anyone can do to speed up Mother Nature.

However, call your doctor right away if your baby's temperature is higher than 101 degrees F, if her teething symptoms leave her unable to eat or sleep, or if you notice any other symptoms that don't seem related to normal teething.

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