Growing teeth is an important physical milestone for your child. Find out more about when baby teeth start coming in and how it affects their development.

By Tamekia Reece and Deborah Pike Olsen
Updated October 09, 2020
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Think you love your baby's gummy grin now? Wait until cute little chompers make an appearance! The process of getting that first row of tiny teeth, however, isn't much fun—for your baby or for you.

Like walking or talking, teething 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. Your baby's pearly whites will be essential for eating solids, learning to talk, and more. Keep reading to learn when babies start growing teeth and how you can recognize when it happens.

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How Growing Teeth Affects Development

Your baby's teeth will allow them to eat a well-rounded diet. Without them, they could be stuck eating pureed food forever. Tooth eruption means your child is acquiring the ability to tear into meat, bite into a plum, and chew beans—so teething indirectly affects weight gain, immune system strength, and bone and brain development.

Another perk: Your baby's teeth will help their 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 their teeth for developing later sounds like /f/, /th/ or /sh/, she adds.

When Do Babies Start Getting Teeth?

"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. 

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 they're almost three.

How do you know when a baby is teething? Not all will have teething symptoms, but for those who do, the arrival of their pearly whites 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," says Dr. Josen. A low-grade fever (less than 101 degrees F., taken rectally) is also common, and may be due to gum inflammation.

When to Call the Pediatrician

Premature and low-birthweight babies may experience delays in teething. Some toddlers won't get their first tooth until 18 months, and that can be normal, but a child who doesn't have any teeth by 18 months should see their dentist to confirm the presence of teeth in the mouth, says Carrie M. Brown, M.D., a pediatrician in Little Rock, Arkansas. In rare cases, some medical conditions prevent the body from forming teeth.

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