Finally, a Tooth!
Well, it’s about time. As my baby girl hurtles towards her first birthday, I was starting to get a little worried. For months, she’s been drooling, chewing her hands, everything a baby does when teething. I had well-meaning friends smile knowingly (or thinking they were knowing) and say, “Ah, she’s teething, huh?” I just smiled politely and sighed inside. But I really was getting a little self-conscious about my baby’s gummy grin. She’s already a wisp of a child, and I was pretty convinced she was also going to need dentures. (I am, in fact, missing two teeth naturally; I thought maybe she was missing all of them.) My mom made it worse. She’s not prone to old wives’ tales, but she did relate to me that my sister took my niece in to see a specialist because she was teething so late and it was supposedly a sign of something… Maybe I should consider doing the same? But, thankfully, my fears are alleviated.
Just after she turned 11 months old, I noticed my daughter kept sticking out her tongue. It was kind of cute. I wondered…hoped, but a week passed and nothing. And she makes it really hard to look in her mouth! But on a Thursday night I was with some friends who commented on her tongue sticking out. I checked; no teeth. But on Friday morning, there it was! A tooth! But not just any tooth–the wrong one. I think my girl is the first I’ve seen who didn’t get one of her bottom center teeth first. Gone are my favorite images of my baby boy who proudly displayed his bottom two teeth for everyone who would admire them. I love that look. So, my little girl got one of the side bottom teeth. My husband and I made a bet on which would come in next. I was putting money on an upper tooth–on the other side. Jack-o-lanterns are kind of cute, right?
I lost the bet. The next Friday I was at a friend’s house and she laughed about the tongue again. Teeth? I checked; no new teeth. But then Saturday morning, what do I find? Not one, but two new teeth! Weird. So she got three teeth in one week. And by the hair on her chinny-chin-chin, she’s technically NOT a late teether.
All of a child’s tooth buds grow during the first trimester of pregnancy. Most babies won’t cut any of those teeth until about 7 months (depends which source you check), and 99% do have a tooth by age one. A child isn’t considered a late teether until 13 months (again, it depends who you ask). At that point, some doctors may check for symptoms of some other problems that can be associated with lack of teething, such as poor nutrition, gum problems, or thyroid issues. The most “common” medical condition that occurs with missing baby teeth is something called ectodermal dysplasia (abnormalities of the skin, hair, teeth, etc). But there are only about 7000 people in the world with that disorder.
There’s no truth to the idea that the earlier teeth come in the smarter the baby. And it’s not true that climate or childhood illnesses after the timing of teeth, either. But generally, the timing of tooth eruption is apparently hereditary. My mom told me last week that none of “us kids” had teeth before we turned one. (Now why didn’t she tell me that a couple months ago when she said my sister went off to a specialist?) My girl has already beat the odds, and is odd in getting three lower teeth first. The only discomfort my little girl showed was some bad sleep the last couple weeks. Poor baby. I didn’t do anything to help.
Not that there’s much you can do. Lots of remedies are available, and lots of “home remedies” have been passed around. But most of the experts today pretty much say the same thing: something cool to chew on is about the only thing that really helps. Lots of moms swear by topicals to numb the gums, but I remember using some of them myself when I had braces as a teenager. The small amount I managed to get in the right place–not on my tongue and lips–barely helped before it washed away in half an hour.
We’ve come a long way from the old days. Since they thought teething actually killed babies they were pretty desperate to pass around helpful hints. Things like wiping animal brains on the gums (maybe Orajel doesn’t sound so bad), applying leeches or even blistering and cutting the gums were supposed to help. Some would scald the back of the baby’s head! Germans would slap the baby across the face at the first sign of the first tooth. It was supposed to help the rest come in easier. (I think I’d rather have uncomfortable teeth.) On the more benign side, they let the dog lick the baby (that helps with a lot of things, doesn’t it?), or carried the baby around the outside of the house three times, or breathed on her after coming home from church.
Maybe in a hundred years they’ll laugh and say, “They used to give their babies frozen bananas! Hahahaha. Isn’t that weird?”