Even at birth, your baby had a secret. All you saw was a gaping, gummy smile, but your child actually began developing tooth buds during the sixth week of fetal development, and all the groundwork for "baby teeth" were in place by the seventh month of pregnancy. So that tiny, seemingly toothless bundle of joy you held in the delivery room already had some teeth that were formed and others still in development -- all below the gum line.
Of course, just because those pearly whites have been around awhile doesn't mean it's easy to predict when teething -- the process of teeth growing through the gums to the surface -- will take place. Babies may begin teething as early as 3 months old, or well after their first birthday, but 6 months of age is a fairly common time for teething to begin.
Your child's behavior may clue you in to when it's almost time for a tooth to emerge, or "erupt," through the gums. Babies are often fussy for up to five days or so before a tooth breaks through. Their gums become tender, sore and swollen. Your little one also may veer away from normal eating habits because of the discomfort.
The Teething Process
Babies' teeth tend to arrive in a particular order: Incisors, or front teeth, on the bottom usually arrive before upper incisors, followed by the teeth immediately adjacent to those, and on back until the second molars come in.
If your baby is a late teether, there's nothing to worry about. Talk to your doctor about it if teething hasn't begun before your baby's first birthday. However, it's likely those teeth will be coming along at any moment.
Early on, your pediatrician will examine your baby's mouth during regular checkups. A dentist should see your child before his or her first birthday, or within six months of the first tooth coming in (whichever is sooner). The entire teething process may take up to two-and-a-half years, but by age 3 your toddler will likely have a full set of all 20 teeth.
Your baby may have his or her own timing for teething, but don't worry -- before you know it, you'll be saving up for braces.
Keep reading for lots more information on teething.
- Mayo Clinic. "Teething: Tips for Sore Gums." Dec. 19, 2009. (Aug. 15, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/teething/FL00102
- Mersch, John, MD. "Teething." July 5, 2011. (Aug. 15, 2011) http://www.medicinenet.com/teething/article.htm
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "FDA Drug Safety Communication: Reports of a Rare, but Serious and Potentially Fatal Adverse Effect With the Use of Over-the-Counter (OTC) Benzocaine Gels and Liquids Applied to the Gums or Mouth." Apr. 7, 2011 (Aug. 15, 2011) http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm250024.htm
- WebMD. "Teething." Oct. 7, 2009. (Aug. 15, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/tc/teething-topic-overview