Our baby is 11 months old and doesn't have any teeth yet. When's he going to get them and will it hurt? And when should we plan to take him to the dentist?
Armin Brott answers:
Although your baby's little chompers started forming when your partner was four months pregnant, they probably won't make their first appearance ("eruption" in dental lingo) until about six or seven months. However, plenty of babies start getting teeth as early as three months, and it's not at all uncommon for a child to be toothless until his first birthday.
There are two important things to know about teething. First, your baby's teeth start showing up in a fairly predictable order: first the two lower central incisors, then the two top central incisors, and then the ones on either side. Most kids will have all eight incisors by the end of their first year, and a total of 20 teeth by age two.
Second, teething isn't usually much fun for your baby or for anyone else nearby. Although some teeth come in without causing any trouble, most kids experience at least some discomfort for a few days before and after it breaks through the gum. Your baby's gums may be sore or tender, he could be fussier and have trouble falling asleep, he'll start gnawing with a vengeance, and you'll need a bucket to mop up the extra drool.
Despite what you may have heard, there's no evidence that symptoms such as has headaches, diarrhea or fever have anything to do with teething. The one exception is a rash that your baby may develop under the chin and on the upper chest. This is usually caused by drool that gets in between your baby's many chins and never has a chance to fully dry.
Fortunately, teething discomfort doesn't last long and is relatively easily dealt with. Most babies respond quite well to acetaminophen (ask your pediatrician how many drops to give and don't waste your time rubbing it on the baby's gums -- it doesn't work. The gum massage itself may help though).
Teething rings are also helpful, especially the kind that are water filled and can be frozen.
Now, about the dentist. One thing you can count on, though: whenever your baby's teeth show up, they'll be followed immediately by plaque. Yes, the same stuff that your dentist has to chip off your teeth with a chisel.
It's way too early to start taking your child to a dentist, but you should use a small piece of gauze to clean each of his teeth once a day. If you're feeling more adventurous, you might want to try using a very soft toothbrush. Either way, skip the toothpaste for at least another year and keep the tubes far away from your baby for even longer; toothpaste can be poisonous or even lethal in large doses. When he's a year old, use a toothbrush with a very soft bristle. Flossing won't be necessary for a while.