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Lauren Naefe/Stocksy United

One joy of parenthood is watching your little one reach milestones. It’s common to celebrate a baby crawling or walking for the first time. But these aren’t the only milestones to look forward to. You might even celebrate your baby’s first tooth.

Here’s what you need to know about teething, as well as what you can do to make the experience more comfortable for your baby.

Baby teeth erupt, or come in, gradually at different times. Typically, you can expect your baby to have all 20 of their primary teeth by the age of 3. Keep in mind, though, the timing that teeth appear can vary from child to child.

Here’s a general guideline when you can expect each tooth to erupt:

Lower teeth

  • central incisor: 6–10 months
  • lateral incisor: 10–16 months
  • canine (cuspid): 17–23 months
  • first molar: 14–18 months
  • second molar: 23–31 months

Upper teeth

  • central incisor: 8–12 months
  • lateral incisor: 9–13 months
  • canine (cuspid): 16–22 months
  • first molar: 13–19 months
  • second molar: 25–33 months

Eventually, 32 permanent teeth will replace your child’s 20 primary teeth.

The time frame for children losing their primary teeth also varies from child to child. In most cases, this takes place over a course of about 6 years.

Children initially shed or lose their central incisor teeth around 6 or 7 years old. The last teeth to fall out are the canines and molars. Most children lose these teeth by age 12.

While some babies get their first tooth around 6 months old, teething can start a little earlier or a little later. Some babies have their first tooth erupt as early as 3 months old, but other babies don’t get their first tooth until 12 months old or older.

As you see the first signs of a tooth, your baby may seem to experience discomfort and pain. This might make sleep and eating difficult for a short time, and your baby might cry more often.

Common symptoms of a teething baby include:

  • increased drooling
  • possible reduced appetite for solids
  • irritability
  • biting and chewing
  • gum rubbing

If your baby is between 3 and 12 months old and develops these symptoms, they may be cutting a tooth and there’s likely no cause for alarm.

But it’s important to note that some symptoms are not associated with teething. These symptoms include:

  • fever
  • facial rash
  • cough and congestion
  • diarrhea or vomiting
  • reduced appetite for liquid foods

If your baby develops any of these signs and symptoms, don’t assume it’s from teething, and contact your pediatrician if symptoms persist or your baby seems sick.

Teething pain can make your little one miserable and irritable. Soreness and pain can occur for some babies as the tooth erupts through their little gums. Other babies may not display any signs or symptoms related to teething.

You might see some crankiness and a lot of tears — but you can make this transition easier for your baby. The trick is making their gums as comfortable as possible.

Massage baby’s gums

If it seems to comfort them, gently massage your baby’s gums with a clean finger. Be gentle, but apply firm pressure. This increases blood flow to your baby’s gum tissue which may reduce inflammation and pain.

Use a cool compress

Applying coolness to your baby’s gums can also reduce discomfort. Some parents will chill a teething ring in the refrigerator (not freezer!), and then give it to their baby to chew on.

You can also apply a cold spoon to your baby’s sore gums. As a precaution, only use a cold spoon if your baby doesn’t have teeth yet. Chewing on a metal spoon could accidentally chip their delicate teeth.

Consider pain medication

Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can also reduce pain. When used correctly, pain relievers are safe to give to babies. These medications can reduce pain associated with teething, but should only be used occasionally.

Be sure to consult your doctor before giving medication to children under 2 years old, or if you’re feeling like you need to give pain relievers for more than a day or two.

Do not use topical gels

There are topical numbing gels containing benzocaine or lidocaine to help relieve teething pain on the market.

But these numbing treatments can be harmful to babies and shouldn’t be used, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. This group also notes that over-the-counter topical gels (even non-numbing ones) aren’t helpful, since all the drool washes them away anyway.

The Food and Drug Administration also issued a public warning about the use of benzocaine oral gels. These gels can cause a condition called methemoglobinemia, which can be particularly dangerous to children younger than 24 months old.

This condition can reduce the oxygen in the body. Signs and symptoms include shortness of breath, confusion, headaches, and a rapid heartbeat.

Your baby cutting their first tooth is an exciting milestone — but may also be a painful one. Your little one doesn’t have to suffer, though. Between a gentle massage, a cool compress, and safe pain medication, you can help your baby get through teething with minimal discomfort.