Here Comes a Tooth (and Here’s What to Do About It)
Your baby’s first set of teeth is a milestone to be celebrated—she’ll be ready for solid food
soon! And it’s also fun to see her first toothy grin. However, the process of introducing all of those new chompers can be painful—for your baby and you. Here’s how to soothe your little one while she’s going through it.
When should you expect to see the first teeth?
The timing of that first tooth can vary greatly. In rare instances, babies are born with a few
teeth; other infants keep their gummy grin for a full year. Six months, however, is the
average age when that first pearly white appears, says Adriana Segura, D.D.S., a pediatric dentist and professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. The two bottom-center incisors usually arrive first, followed by the two top-center incisors.
You’ll know a tooth is probably on its way if your baby starts drooling a lot or gums objects in his mouth more than usual. But even then, it’s not an overnight process. Front teeth can take about a week to break the skin. Back molars usually take about a month. Ouch!
How to grin and bear teething woes.
There are a few things you can do to make your baby more comfortable as she teethes:
- Gently massage sore gums with a wet cloth or your clean finger.
- Offer a firm teething ring that is cool to the touch or at room temperature (but not
frozen, which can hurt gums).
- Wear a teething necklace or accessory that she can chew on while you carry her.
- Pop a clean, damp washcloth in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Knot one end
(before chilling) to give your baby more to gnaw on.
- Distract her with a slow-flow sippy cup filled with cool water, once your little one is 6 months old.
What not to do.
Avoid these potentially harmful strategies:
- Never rub alcohol on her gums. There’s no evidence it helps, and it could be
dangerous. Talk to your pediatrician about offering infant acetaminophen instead.
- Steer clear of amber teething necklaces. Anything placed around your baby’s neck increases the risk of strangulation, and your little one could also gnaw off a bead and choke on it. Plus, there is no scientific research that backs up the claim that amber provides any pain relief.
When to worry about your baby’s teeth.
Get to the dentist if your baby’s teeth have white spots you can’t wipe off—a cavity may be
forming. Decay-causing bacteria can be spread through saliva; for example, if you put a
pacifier in your mouth to clean it and then give it to Baby, says Denver pediatrician Patricia
Braun, M.D., M.P.H. The same can happen if you share spoons or cups. And never let Baby fall asleep with a bottle of milk or juice.
Take care of your baby’s gums.
Before any teeth erupt, get in the habit of wiping your sweetie’s gums with a wet cloth after
each feeding. For effective brushing advice, visit the dentist after your child’s first tooth
arrives, or by his first birthday even if your little drooler’s still toothless. That gummy grin will soon be gone!
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