Waiting for your little one to cut their first few teeth is one of those milestones that you may look forward to but also dread just a bit. Teething can be painful for babies — and their parents, too! So, when can you expect your baby to begin teething, and how long will this stage last?
Usually teething begins around 6 to 10 months of age and lasts until baby is about 25 to 33 months. Still, teething isn’t officially over until young kids get their permanent molars. The first set of molars comes in around 6 to 7 years of age, and you can expect to see the second set come in when your child is around 12 or 13.
While we generally refer to the phase as “teething” or “cutting teeth,” its formal name is tooth eruption. Although every baby develops on their own timeline, most babies get their first teeth around 6 to 10 months of age.
You’ll be glad to know that not all of your baby’s teeth erupt at once. Normally, it’s the lower central incisors (the two front lower teeth) that come in first. Your baby’s teeth will usually appear in pairs and in this order:
- lower central incisors
- upper central incisors
- upper lateral incisors
- lower lateral incisors
- upper first molars
- lower first molars
- upper canines
- lower canines
- lower second molars
- upper second molars
Assuming there are no underlying issues, your baby should continue to gain two new teeth every 2 to 4 months until the age of 2.
The final baby teeth to appear will be your toddler’s second lower and upper molars. The lower second molars will arrive between 23 to 31 months, while the upper second molars appear between 25 to 33 months.
By the time your child is 3 years old, they should have 20 teeth, which is a full set of primary or baby teeth. But rest easy, as more teeth begin to appear in your baby’s mouth, the horrors of teething tend to subside.
Early and delayed teething
The age range for teething is a general guide — not a hard and fast rule. Some babies can cut their teeth as early as 4 months old.
It’s also not necessarily a problem if your child’s first tooth doesn’t appear until they’re much older than the guidelines say to expect. Sometimes, a late eruption is hereditary. Some babies don’t cut their first tooth until they’re 15 months old.
Given that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children have their first dental visit around when their first tooth erupts or by 1 year of age — whichever comes first — you should have the opportunity to discuss any concerns you may have with a dentist by baby’s first birthday.
So, now you know the timeline for teething, but what about the symptoms?
While increased drooling and sucking on things are nearly universal by 4 to 6 months of age and not necessarily signs that a tooth is about to erupt, other notable symptoms may include irritability and a baby that’s gnawing on anything they can get their hands on, including your fingers!
While you may hear people say diarrhea is a sign of teething, many experts no longer support this belief. So, if you’re concerned that something else could be at play besides your baby cutting their teeth, contact your pediatrician.
Usually, it’s the first few pairs of teeth that seem to be the most uncomfortable for babies. As more teeth appear, the classic horror tales of teething should subside. But there’s a catch. Sometimes when the final sets of molars come in, the classic painful teething symptoms can return.
Keep in mind that every baby is different, and your child might not experience any symptoms at all when their teeth erupt.
There’s nothing worse than seeing your baby in pain and feeling helpless to stop it. Fortunately, there are plenty of safe remedies that you can use to try to help ease your baby’s discomfort — and restore calm to your home!
One of the best things you can do is give your baby something to chew on. Biting down on hard or firm objects may help them relieve the pressure of their teeth pushing up into their gums.
Always make sure that whatever you give them is large and doesn’t contain small items or pieces that could pose a choking hazard. While you can buy teething toys, you can also create homemade teethers by wetting a washcloth and putting it in the freezer for 30 minutes. It’ll give your little one something to gnaw on, and the cold cloth may also soothe their sore gums.
You can also opt for rubber teething rings, but avoid rings that are full of liquid or gels, as a baby chomping on them could eventually break it. Just remember that even though you can put washcloths in the freezer, teething rings should only be kept in the fridge.
You’ll also want to make sure to have plenty of bibs and soothing skin ointments on hand, as extra drool can lead to skin irritation and rashes.
If you’ve tried all the at-home remedies and nothing seems to be working, it’s OK to bring in reinforcements by way of over-the-counter (OTC) remedies.
After talking with your pediatrician, you can use acetaminophen or ibuprofen on an occasional basis to help reduce the pain. This should only be used for babies older than 6 months, and you should ensure that you’re using an appropriate dosage.
Remedies to avoid
Once upon a time, topical teething gels were a go-to remedy among parents of teething babies. But these days, we know that the benzocaine they often contain can lead to harmful side effects.
Plus, since it’s a topical remedy, the gel washes off the gums fairly quickly, which can lead to parents using it too frequently. Likewise, remedies that are marketed as homeopathic may contain belladonna and should also be avoided for the same reasons.
And while they’re quite popular, most experts don’t advocate for teething bracelets, necklaces, or jewelry. Although they might help soothe your baby’s gums, the small pieces can become choking hazards, and necklaces can be a strangulation hazard. There’s also concern that teething jewelry can harbor bacteria or cause mouth injuries if you have a vigorous biter.
When to see a dentist
Experts recommend that you make an appointment with a pediatric dentist by a baby’s first birthday or once your child cuts their first teeth. While that first appointment won’t be nearly as intensive as when your child has a full set of teeth, it will help them get comfortable with going to the dentist and set them on the path for good oral health.
Teething can be a frustrating time for both babies and parents. But just know that this moment in time is temporary. By the time your child is about 3 years old, they’ll have a full smile to charm you with.