At what age do babies start teething? Find out more about how baby's teething affects physical development. Think you love your baby's gummy grin now? Wait until cute little chompers make an appearance.
Teething: When Does It Start? -- And End?!
If there's one milestone many parents wish they could delay (or at least skip to the end immediately), it's teething. Sure, your kid will look adorable when he smiles and shows those two tiny bottom teeth, but the process of getting them isn't much fun -- for your baby or for you. The good news is, all the suffering isn't for nothing. Teething, like crawling, walking and talking, is an important milestone that shows your child is on the right track developmentally, says Tanny Josen, D.D.S., a pediatric dentist at Kid Island Dental in Long Island, New York. Although appearance is the first thing many think of when teeth are mentioned, your baby's pearly whites will be essential for much more.
Type of Development: Physical and Language
Your baby's teeth will help allow her to eat a well-rounded diet. Without them, she could be stuck eating pureed everything, forever. Tooth eruption means your child is acquiring the ability to tear into meat, bite into a plum, and chew beans, so teething has an indirect effect on her gaining weight, strengthening immunity, and improving bone and brain development.
Another perk: Your baby's teeth will help her emerging language skills. "As babies acquire teeth and can increasingly bite and chew more textured foods, they are exercising and building the underlying oral-motor musculature for speech development of the jaw, cheeks, tongue, and lips," says Sherry Artemenko, a speech-language pathologist and founder of Play on Words. Plus, your child will need to use her teeth for developing later sounds like /f/, /th/ or /sh/, she adds.
When to Expect Teething to Begin
"Most babies' teeth begin to erupt between the ages of 4 to 6 months, though for some it may be earlier or later," Dr. Josen says. And no matter what Grandma says, when your child's first tooth pops in, it has nothing to do with smarts. "The age the baby cuts his or her first tooth depends on family history of teething and nothing more," says Jill Lasky, D.D.S., a pediatric dentist at Lasky Pediatric Dental Group in Los Angeles. So, if you got your teeth early, your child probably will too. Same thing if you were late.
Typically, the two bottom front teeth (central incisors) are the first to erupt, followed by the four upper front teeth (central and lateral incisors). But variations in the order may occur and don't warrant any concern, Dr. Josen says. Your child should have a full set of primary (baby) teeth by the time he's almost three.
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What Teething Milestones Parents Should Expect
Not all babies have teething symptoms. But for babies who aren't as lucky, the arrival of those tiny teeth can cause a whole lot of misery. "Symptoms a child may have when teething are drooling, which can cause a rash on the chin or face; gum swelling and sensitivity; irritability; biting; or sleep problems," Dr. Josen says. Your baby may also rub her face, tug on her ears, or even refuse to eat and drink. Some parents report that their babies suffer from a mild fever, diarrhea, or runny nose, but Dr. Lasky says teething doesn't cause these symptoms. "Instead, the tiny open wounds in the gums that result from the teeth erupting makes it more likely for the baby to catch a little bug," she explains.
You can do quite a few things to help your teething baby. Cold will help numb the gums naturally. "I recommend chilling -- not freezing -- a wet washcloth or a toy that you feel comfortable having your baby chew on," Dr. Lasky says. Make sure the toy is age-appropriate, BPA-free, and nontoxic. If you choose to use a washcloth, chill a few in a plastic food-storage bag so they'll be on hand when your child needs one. Rubbing his gums with a clean finger or giving him cold food (like applesauce or pureed fruit) or drinks may also reduce the pain. If nothing is helping, check with your pediatrician, who may recommend that you use an over-the-counter pain reliever for babies, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Aspirin is off-limits for children because it is associated with Reye's syndrome, a rare but serious and life-threatening condition.
A couple of pain relief methods you shouldn't turn to are teethers (also known as teething rings) and topical teething gels. "The teeth could puncture the teether and your baby could ingest the substance inside," Dr. Lasky says. The FDA warns against using over-the-counter topical numbing preparations because they can be toxic to babies. Symptoms of teething usually disappear when the tooth breaks through the gum.
Red Flags to Watch Out For
Premature and low-birthweight babies may experience delays in when their first tooth erupts. If your baby isn't showing any signs of sprouting a tooth by his first birthday, discuss it with the pediatrician. You should also contact the pediatrician if your baby is teething and:
- has a high fever, diarrhea, or vomiting
- the gums look very inflamed
- the gums are blue (this usually indicates an eruption cyst, a swelling of the gums above an erupting tooth; although most cysts are benign, it's best to have them checked)
- the gums have lesions or bumps
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