Early teething, late teething

Some poor babies (OK, let’s call them special) babies teethe early. Teeth erupting in a baby younger than 5 or 6 months is considered early teething, but it’s not incredibly rare to hear of a baby with a couple of teeth by 4 months or even 3 months of age. Remember, symptoms may be displayed well before those pearly whites actually appear.

Teeth buds grow during the first trimester of pregnancy, and you may have heard of babies who were born with teeth—even a full set of them. These instances of “natal teeth” are highly unusual, affectingly only about 1 in 2,000 to 3,000 newborns, according to the National Institutes of Health. Oftentimes, these teeth are not deeply rooted and must be removed to avoid nursing or other feeding problems, or the risk of choking in the case that they detach and are swallowed or breathed into the lungs.

On the other end of the spectrum, some babies teeth very late. Such “delayed teething,” defined as no teeth having appeared by 13 months, can be hereditary, so if you’re worried ask your parents if they got their teeth late. Maybe you, too, were a late teether and didn’t even know it! In other cases, late teething can be a result of poor nutrition, thyroid problems, an obstruction in the gums or other medical issues, and it’s best to consult a doctor.

Recently, at the playground, my son was digging in the sandbox next to a baby a year old who was completely toothless. Her gummed smile was cute, and her parents weren’t a bit worried, having been reassured by their pediatrician and a pediatric dentist that Baby’s teeth would emerge when they were darn good and ready.

Be sure to ignore “Old Wives’ Tales” and teething myths you may hear if your baby cuts teeth early or late. For example, some believe that early teeth are a sign of intelligence. And there was a time that a baby born with teeth was shunned as unlucky, selfish or a variety of other maladies. Bunk, all of it. Supposedly, however, Napoleon Bonaparte and Julius Caesar were born with teeth.

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