Everything You Need To Know About Baby Teeth And Teething

flickr / bryan anthony

Somewhere around 4-months your baby will start getting a sense of how your fingers taste. That’s because as anxiety about teething sets in, you’ll have your fingers all up in their gums feeling around for something coming through. It’s a bizarre side effect of being a mammal that grows 2 sets of teeth.


flickr / Charles Burns[module id="76950"]

But just be thankful you’re not an elephant parent. Those giant creatures grow 6 sets of teeth during their lifetime. And their trunks must constantly smell like baby spit. Nature, you nasty.

So what’s going on with these baby teeth, and how is a parent supposed to deal with them?

20 Teeth, Many Names

There are a couple of terms for baby teeth you may have heard. Colloquially, they’ve been called milk teeth — if you are a bajillion years old. For the more science-minded they are primary teeth (coming first) or deciduous teeth (because they are shed like leaves … kind of). But you, of course, will just call them “baby teeth.” Otherwise you’ll just think about jumping into a cheery pile of brown incisors.

These suckers (or biters) start to come on the scene anytime between 4 and 8 months of age. This makes sense, because there are no teeth when the diet is mostly liquid, a few as solid foods are being introduced, and more as a mostly solid food diet takes over. Finally, when your kid has a full size jaw, the adult teeth start replacing the little ones. You’ll also be out $20 to that extortionist, the Tooth Fairy.

How Do They Grow?

Baby teeth tend to appear in a pretty specific order and timeline. That timeline does fluctuate wildly based on genes. If your baby teeth came in late, your kid’s probably will too. If you don’t know this, ask your mom. Your mom knows everything. At least that’s what she keeps telling you.

The first teeth that come in are the 2 lower incisors right up in the front. Which is cute as hell, but also dangerous for your partner’s nipples and your fingers. Following these teeth are the 2 top front teeth. The rest come in from front to back, with all 20 in place within in 33 months.

What that means for you is that you can expect over 2 years of fussiness and sleeplessness. Oh, with just enough time in between tooth eruptions to establish bedtime again. Again, nature’s nasty.


flickr / J L[module id="83477" data="eyJudW0iOjN9"]


So there probably won’t be a ton of fuss about the first 2 teeth. That’s because they’re pretty damn sharp and cut through the gums pretty easily. Just like a high school bus, it’s those jerks in the back that you need to worry about. That’s because the rear teeth are blunt, and it takes a lot more for them to erupt. Eruption is the right term, because in some cases the process might produce a cyst on the gums. When the tooth does come through, that cyst will blow and be gross. But that’s about it.

Tooth Care

The best thing you can do to get your kid is get them brushing early. You don’t need toothpaste before 2. You’ll find fluoridated tap water in most places, which will do the trick. You can use toothpaste on your dentist’s advice after age 2.

Speaking of Dr. Tooth, make sure you get your kid into the dentist by 1-year-old. They’ll help get you oriented to the best care regimen and check for early cavities. Also, they’ll probably be anxious for you to start paying for their kid’s college education.

baby brushing teeth

flickr / Jan Hoffmann[module id="83477" data="eyJudW0iOjV9"]

Finally, when it’s time for the Tooth Fairy to come, figure out a reasonable price for the things. If you start laying down 5 spots, the other parents start to be pretty icy at the PTA meetings.

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