You’ve heard the stories of tired parents doing whatever they can to soothe their teething baby’s aches and pains, from offering chilled teethers to extending a clean finger to chew on, to distracting with games and activities. But, what are the stages of teething in babies and what can a parent expect?
Parents of my pediatric dental patients who are going through teething (odontiasis is the technical term) with their kids usually smile at me wearily and ask, “How long does the teething stage last for babies”? That’s a question many parents wonder about as they navigate the rough waters of the five stages of teething in infants and toddlers.
According to Healthline, “Usually teething begins around 6 to 10 months of age and lasts until the baby is about 25 to 33 months.” Teeth will continue to erupt at the rate of two new teeth every two to four months. By three years of age, most children will have all of their baby teeth, a complete set of 20.
Although infants will begin to get their baby teeth around six months of age, some will teethe earlier and some later, depending on the child’s genetics. In general, though, the five stages of teething are broken down based on the baby’s age.
There are five stages of teething your child with go through as babies:
When babies are born, beneath the gums is a full set of twenty baby teeth.
Although a child may put their hands in their mouth and have excessive drooling around three months of age, most babies won’t begin to teethe until they are about six months old.
At about six months old, a baby’s first teeth will begin to erupt (break through the gums). Usually, these teeth are on the lower jaw (the lower central incisors).
During this time period, the primary molars come in.
Close to a child’s second birthday, the canine teeth (between incisors and molars on top and bottom) will erupt through the gums.
Finally, when a child nears three years old, the large, second molars erupt and come into place in the gums.
Fortunately, babies’ teeth don’t all come in at the same time! Typically, teeth erupt or come through the gums in pairs:
lower central incisors (at 6-10 months old)
upper central incisors (at 8-12 months old)
upper lateral incisors (at 9-13 months old)
lower lateral incisors (at 10-16 months old)
upper first molars (at 13-10 months old)
lower first molars (at 14-18 months old)
upper canines (at 16-22 months old)
lower canines (at 17-23 months old)
lower second molars (at 23-31 months old)
upper second molars (at 25-33 months old)
Note that not all babies’ teeth come in according to this typical timetable. Some experience early eruption, while others experience delayed eruption, meaning some babies may start to teethe in the first few months of life or the teeth could make an appearance closer to the baby’s first birthday.
The symptoms of teething can mimic other issues going on with your child. In general, though, you can expect your baby may be teething if they are displaying these telltale signs:
Painful or swollen gums
Loss of appetite
Rash around the mouth
Increase in biting
Rubbing of the gums
Chewing on hard surfaces
Pulling on ear
Putting hands in mouth
A slightly raised temperature (no fever) under 100.4 degrees could be an indication of teething. Some parents swear that a mild fever and diarrhea may occur, although research hasn’t backed up the claim.
Because the size of the second molars is large, they tend to give babies the hardest time and cause them the most pain during the eruption. Parents can get frustrated at this point because tried and true methods they’ve used to soothe their baby before may not be all that effective.
In addition, it’s good to realize that a few days before a tooth comes in and a few days after it comes in can be quite a painful time for your baby, no matter the size of the tooth. It’s best to try a variety of methods to soothe and comfort your baby during these difficult moments.
Because no one wants their little ones to suffer, parents will try almost any method to provide pain relief, comfort, and soothe their babies. When your infant or toddler is showing signs of teething, consider these methods and others from KidsHealth to help relieve discomfort:
Massage the gums with pressure. Offer to rub your baby’s aching gums with a clean finger or a finger wrapped in moist gauze. This can help to relieve pain.
Offer something cold. You can use a chilled washcloth, teether, or spoon. If the teether is liquid-filled, make sure it’s not frozen. It’s better to use a solid teether that has been placed in the refrigerator to cool because some liquid-filled teethers can crack and leak chemicals.
Give your child something to chew on. This can be a teether, a teething biscuit, or a chilled vegetable (but watch out for any choking that could occur if you use a piece of food).
Administer over-the-counter, doctor-approved, pain medications. When teething seems unbearable, try infant’s or children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen and give a dose according to your child’s age and weight.
The jury is out on this question. For some lucky parents, teething will cause their baby to sleep more than usual. More often than not, though, a baby who is cutting new teeth will have a few sleepless nights that can lead to crankiness during the day.
You, as the parent, may lose some sleep as well, but be encouraged because teething is a normal, natural part of growing up, and sooner than you know, the teething stage will be over.
If parents see any signs of blood, pus, or swelling on the baby’s face, it would be best to call their child’s pediatric dentist.
If your baby is crying inconsolably, has a fever over 101 degrees, has diarrhea, or has a runny nose, contact your child’s pediatrician. The baby likely will be suffering from something more than just teething.
If you have any questions about teething in babies, contact Hurst Pediatric Dentistry for answers. We’ll be glad to help!
Once your child cuts their teeth, read about “5 Fun Ways To Get Your Child To Brush Their Teeth” or try “16 Silly Songs To Brush Your Teeth By” for fun ideas on establishing good oral hygiene.