Although a small percentage of newborns can have natal teeth, when a baby is born, they typically have just soft, gummy mouths — not a tooth in sight. When their primary or baby teeth do start to come in, the teething process can be both exciting and stressful. Here’s what you can expect.
When a baby’s primary teeth start appearing, that is called ‘tooth eruption’. It may be a scary-sounding phrase, but it doesn’t mean anything negative is happening with the tooth or child.
Often, you can start to see teeth poking up from your baby’s gums as early as four months of age. It is actually perfectly normal for teething to start closer to six months of age or as old as twelve months. Symptoms of teething can even begin at two months, disguised as a colicky baby. The age and time of teething is deeply rooted in the genes, so a pattern of early, on-time, or late teething in the family can help predict a new baby’s possible tooth eruption. A child who is 18 months of age with no visible erupting primary teeth should be seen by a pediatrician to be evaluated. Typically, children will have a full set of 20 baby teeth by 30 months of age.
There is also a typical pattern. The two bottom front incisors are first, followed by the top four. Keep in mind that variations on this are normal. Children with genetic differences such as Down Syndrome especially experience a different typical pattern of tooth growth.
Unfortunately, teething pain is normal. Some babies have higher discomfort than others while teething, and others are seemingly unbothered by it. Teething itself does not cause serious symptoms beyond a low-grade fever, some dehydration from drooling, and fussiness. If you have concerns about their teething symptoms or they are having severe symptoms of sickness coinciding with the teething, consult their doctor ASAP.
Dental diseases can, and do, happen in young children. When a baby’s teeth begin to come in, gently wiping them with a damp cloth can help keep them clean and start a good record or oral hygiene. Consult the child’s doctor or dentist on when it would be appropriate to use a toddler or infant toothbrush for them.
You don’t need to bring your child for a dentist visit as soon as they experience a tooth eruption. Typically dental visits can begin at a year of age. Until then, gently care for the child’s existing teeth and work with their doctor to manage teething symptoms.