It seems like only yesterday that your baby finally got over her fussy-infant phase. Now she's cranky again, and her cheeks are red. Maybe she's sucking on her fingers, too, and drooling. Is she sick?
Actually, she might just be teething. While about half of all kids sail through without a hitch, the rest experience temporary but often distressing problems -- everything from minor mouth soreness to a low-grade fever, says Kevin J. Hale, D.D.S., a clinical adjunct professor of pediatric dentistry at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. The good news: Here are some simple ways to make the experience easier all around.
What Lies Beneath
Although you won't see your child's teeth until he's several months old, they've been developing since he was in the womb. Soft tooth buds, the precursors of baby teeth, appear as early as the eighth week of pregnancy and begin to harden during the fourth month in utero. His teeth will break through the gums around the time he's 6 months of age -- although occasionally they emerge as early as 4 months or as late as his first birthday.
Baby teeth often -- but not always -- come in the following order: the center bottom two, the center top two, the bottom lateral incisors (they're next to the center teeth), the top lateral incisors, the first molars, the top two eyeteeth (the ones next to the laterals), and then the bottom two eyeteeth. Second molars show up a little later, usually around age 2. In general, your child will cut four teeth for every six months of life, Dr. Hale says. By age 3, he'll probably have all 20 baby teeth.