You love watching your baby hit those sweet milestones — the first smile, first giggle, and rolling over for the first time — but one that’s sometimes not so sweet (for you or for them): cutting their first tooth.
Teething is one of those milestones that may bring on discomfort, tears (from you and the baby) and even sleepless nights (yep, more of those!). But as for when your baby will actually start the process, it depends.
We know what you’re thinking: great, another thing to add to this whole guessing game that we call parenthood. But here’s what we do know.
Most babies get their first tooth between 4 and 7 months. But there’s a wide range of when it’s considered “normal” to start teething. So don’t panic if your little one hasn’t cut a tooth by 7 or 9 months. If you’re concerned, you can always talk to their pediatrician at their next checkup.
To get even more specific, most infants begin teething at around 6 months. Your little one will likely have a full set of their first teeth by age 3, and all the joys of the teeth-brushing routine will be in full force.
But “typical” doesn’t mean “best” or “all.” Exactly when your baby will start teething may even be hereditary.
And though it may seem impossible, some babies are born with one or two teeth! This occurs in about
Some infants are early teethers — and it usually isn’t anything to worry about! If your little one starts showing signs of teething around 2 or 3 months, they may be just a bit ahead of the norm in the teething department.
Or, your 3-month-old may be going through a normal development stage. Many babies start drooling more and exploring their world by bringing their hand to their mouth to gum it at around 3 to 4 months. This is completely normal and often not accompanied by tooth eruption for a little while longer.
If you suspect your little bundle of joy — who may be considerably less joyful during bouts of gum pain — is teething, look out for symptoms like:
- drooling, the most telltale sign
- crankiness — unfortunately, also a common indicator of common baby stuff, like gas
- a slight temperature elevation to around 99°F (37.2°C); teething does not cause a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or more
The bottom two teeth are usually the first to appear, so keep an eye on that area and prepare for cuteness overload when they do.
When your baby’s first teeth appear, you’ll want to use a small, soft-bristled toothbrush to clean around the teeth for them. You can also use a clean, damp washcloth on your baby’s gums each day.
Through it all, remember that your child’s pediatrician is your ally! Let them know about your baby’s teeth at their next appointment. The doctor can make sure everything looks good and recommend a pediatric dentist, if necessary. (It usually isn’t at this stage.)
So we’ve established that you shouldn’t worry if you have an early teether on your hands. Guess what we’re going to say about a late teether? That’s right: Try not to worry. (Easier said than done, we know.)
Every baby is different. Don’t be concerned if all your child’s little friends have started to cut teeth already — yours will too, in their own time. In fact, if you’re going to compare at all, it’s better to consider when their siblings (if they have them) cut their first tooth.
Or think back to when you and your partner started teething. OK, so you probably don’t remember that — but someone in your family may.
Why might this be helpful? It’s because genetics may play a role in when your baby starts to teethe.
If your baby was born prematurely or at a low birth weight, that may also delay teething.
On average, babies have:
- 4 teeth by 11 months
- 8 teeth by 15 months
- 12 teeth by 19 months
- 16 teeth at 23 months
Those sometimes distressing (but always perfectly usual) teething symptoms may come and go during this time period. Or they may be more consistent as your little one cuts new teeth or starts to feel the first symptoms of a tooth emerging. Symptoms might be obvious (drooling, irritability) but talk to your pediatrician if you’re concerned.
On the other hand, many babies’ teeth erupt without any symptoms. So don’t be surprised if your baby smiles at you one morning, and you suddenly spot a pearly white!
And finally, if your child doesn’t have any teeth by 18 months, they should see a pediatric dentist for evaluation. In rare cases, an underlying medical issue may cause a delay in teething. These may include:
- vitamin deficiency
- hypoactive thyroid
Again, mom or dad: Don’t worry.
Your baby’s bottom front two teeth will likely come in first, followed by the four upper teeth.
Next, their teeth may come in two at a time, one on each side of the mouth. But this pattern can vary, and many factors can influence the timeline (like if your baby was born early or at a low birth weight, for example).
If you’re concerned that it’s been a while since your child cut their last one or two teeth, talk to your friendly pediatrician.
Common symptoms of teething may include:
- chewing on different objects
- irritability and crankiness
- sore or tender gums
- slightly elevated temperature to around 99°F (37.2°C)
On the other hand, a higher rectal temperature over 100.4°F (38°C), vomiting, or diarrhea are not usually signs of teething. If your baby has these symptoms, see your pediatrician.
When your little one is teething, you may feel more inclined to reach for that bottle of wine or chocolate bar because it’s tough to see your baby in pain. (No? Just us?)
But the baby needs some soothing, too. These are some tried and true and — most importantly — safe home remedies you can try:
- Gently massage your baby’s gums with a clean finger, knuckle, or moistened gauze pad.
- Hold a cold washcloth, spoon, or chilled teething ring on your baby’s gums.
- Use plastic or rubber toys that are chilled — never frozen solid (ouch!).
- Offer cold foods like a chilled little slice of cucumber if your baby is already eating solids — but always keep a watchful eye on them, because this could be a choking hazard.
- Use occasional over-the-counter baby acetaminophen or ibuprofen, with your pediatrician’s OK.
And an important note: No matter how attractive the item or the claims of its manufacturers, avoid teething necklaces or bracelets — worn by adults or babies — made of amber, wood, or silicone. These can quickly turn into choking hazards, and it’s just not worth it.
When your baby cuts their first tooth usually says nothing about their development — as with most things baby, there’s such a wide range of totally OK. Most infants end up with a full set of baby teeth by the time they’re 3, regardless of when they cut that first tooth.
But if your baby hasn’t cut a tooth by the time they’re 18 months, talk to your dentist. Ideally, you’ve already brought your baby to a pediatric dentist before age 1, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (and the American Dental Association and American Academy of Pediatrics, too).
So if you haven’t seen a dentist yet, this would be a good time to have your sweet babe’s mouth and gums checked out. While visiting the dentist for the first time may sound scary, remember these two things: Your baby hasn’t yet had a negative dental experience to create dread, and pediatric dentists are the best at making the visit comfortable — it can even be even fun.
Once your little one does cut a tooth or two, be sure to take good care to clean around the area each day with a damp, cool washcloth or soft bristle baby toothbrush. Before you know it, they’ll (hopefully!) be brushing their teeth on their own.