When do babies start teething?

Babies are born with a full set of 20 primary teeth, lying in wait under the surface of the gums.

The teething process usually starts between four to seven months, according the American Academy of Pediatrics, and most commonly the first tooth begins to emerge just before the sixth month.

There are several signs of “preteething,” according to William Sears, MD, author of The Baby Book. Drooling is a major clue that your baby might be teething (although some babies just seem to be natural droolers!) Your child might also show looser bowel movements (because of swallowing all that extra saliva.) In addition, saliva can cause a slight cough. Drooling can also cause a rash under Baby’s chin. This is the time to break out all those cute little bibs you got at the baby shower. Keep a drool rag or cloth diaper handy to swipe little chins from time to time, and apply a gentle lotion if there’s a rash. Some babies may also end up with diaper rash.

Some pediatricians will swear on a stack of stethoscopes that teething does not cause a temperature increase, and if Baby is running a fever something else must be wrong. But the American Academy of Pediatrics acknowledges in Your Baby’s First Year that babies may show a slightly elevated temperature (under 100 degrees; Dr. Sears says up to 101) that can be attributed to teething.

Also expect your child to suck or chew on his or her hands, or anything else within reach. When my son was teething for the first time, he’d lunge forward if anyone’s hand came within reach, hoping to try putting that in his mouth, too. Pressure on the gums makes teething babies feel a lot better, and they must know this instinctively.
The best way to confirm that pearly whites are on their way is to simply run a clean finger along the gum line. You’ll likely feel a little “ridge” of teeth waiting to pop up.
Don’t worry if your baby doesn’t follow the trend. Here’s what Penelope Leach, author of Your Baby & Child, has to say on the matter: “Getting teeth earlier or later than average doesn’t mean that a baby is “forward” or “backward”—in fact, it means nothing of significance except that once a tooth appears that toothless grin is gone forever.”

And here’s a bit of teething trivia: Some physicians note that girls tend to get their teeth earlier than boys. Also, cold weather can make teething pain worse, according to Leach, who suggests baby wear a hat when the temperature drops during teething.

Many teething babies will pull at their ears, because the pain sometimes radiates along the side of the face. Some will lose interest in eating, and/or nursing. Conversely, other babies want to nurse more when teething, mainly for comfort. Dr. Sears advises: “Offer cool, mushy foods—for example, applesauce and frozen fruit-juice slush. Put these on a cool spoon to make a real hit.” The modern classic What to Expect the First Year suggests slightly frozen pureed peaches, applesauce or yogurt to sooth the gums while offering nutrition.

Of course, some babies breeze through teething with barely a whimper. But that’s probably not your baby, or you wouldn’t be looking up teething tips.

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