As a parent, watching your baby teethe can be an anxious time. When other babies seem to be sprouting pearly whites as early as 4 or 5 months old, many parents grow concerned if their own child’s gums remain bare. While early teethers may see their first teeth emerge around 4-7 months, others don’t get their initial teeth until 12-14 months or even later.
Late teething is quite common and simply reflects normal variation in development timelines. However, it often causes undue concern that something is wrong. In reality, later teething has several advantages and does not necessarily indicate a problem.
For instance, parents of late teethers are able to hold off on hard foods and enjoy their gummy baby for longer. This can make feeding and weaning less stressful. This natural timeline allows for a more gradual and comfortable transition for both the baby and the parents.
Babies are on their own clock when it comes to hitting developmental milestones like sitting, crawling, and teething. Late teething is a variation of normal and has upsides like reduced infection risk, better feeding habits, and less teething pain. With the right information, late teething is no cause for worry.
As a parent, understanding the benefits your baby experiences by getting teeth later can help you relax and appreciate their unique timeline.
When is Teething Considered “Late”?
There is a wide range of normal when it comes to teething timelines. The American Dental Association notes that babies often get their first teeth between 6 and 12 months old. However, beginning nearer to the 12 month mark is still very common. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s typically nothing to worry about if:
- No teeth have emerged by 12 months old
- A first molar hasn’t arrived by 16 months
- There are fewer than 6 teeth by 18 months
- A full set of 20 baby teeth haven’t come in by 3 years old
As long as your child is hitting other developmental milestones like sitting, crawling, and babbling, late teething is likely just a variation of normal. Still mention it at their well visit for your pediatrician’s input.
Benefits for Baby
Late teething actually has several advantages:
1. Better Eating Habits
Babies with delayed teething tend to eat pureed foods longer, which can be advantageous. This delay in introducing solid foods gives parents more time to transition their babies gradually, ensuring a smoother transition to a solid diet.
2. Lower Infection Risk
Late teething reduces the exposure to tooth decay bacteria. With teeth emerging later, the risk of early childhood cavities is minimized, promoting better oral health for the baby.
3. Less Pain and Fussiness
Older babies can handle discomfort better than infants, so delayed teething might mean reduced teething-related misery. Parents may find their babies are less fussy during this period.
4. Improved Sleep Habits
Babies without teeth coming through might experience more restful nights. Teething can disrupt sleep patterns, but delayed teething allows for longer periods of uninterrupted sleep.
5. Decreased Injury Risk
With no hard teeth protruding, the risk of injury from falls is minimized. Babies are less likely to injure themselves when they don’t have teeth to fall on.
6. Less Need for Orthodontics
Late teethers might experience fewer issues with teeth crowding. Delayed teething can lead to straighter permanent teeth, reducing the need for extensive orthodontic treatments in the future.
7. Milk Extraction Remains Easy
Babies can continue breastfeeding or bottle-feeding without the interference of teeth. Milk flows freely without any discomfort for both the baby and the nursing parent.
8. Relaxed Weaning Timeline
Parents of late teethers don’t face pressure to wean off milk hurriedly to avoid nursing with teeth. This relaxed timeline allows for a natural and stress-free transition from breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.
When to Seek Pediatric Evaluation
While usually just a normal variance, there are some circumstances when late teething warrants a dentist’s assessment:
- Teeth not erupted by 24 months old
- No indication teeth are developing or moving under gums
- Signs of teeth abnormalities on x-ray
- Missing milestones in tandem with delayed teething
- Genetic disorders or craniofacial syndromes impacting development
Your pediatric dentist can help determine if your child’s timeline is within reasonable bounds or if further steps are needed. The majority of late teethers still erupt healthy permanent teeth eventually without intervention.
Tips to Support Late Teething
For babies on the later teething end of normal, here are some ways to support their development:
- Massage swollen, tender gums with a clean finger
- Offer a chilled wet washcloth for soothing
- Ensure infant is getting adequate nutrition for tooth formation
- Brush gums gently with a baby toothbrush
- Avoid shared utensils and cups to reduce bacteria transmission
- Have baby’s iron levels checked to rule out anemia
- Provide teething toys for soothing pressure
- Watch for teething signals like drooling and chewing hands
- Discuss options like a pacifier to satisfy need to bite down
While watching peers sprout teeth can cause concern when your baby’s gums remain bare, rest assured late teething is very common and comes with certain advantages. Focus on your child’s overall health and development. When teeth do arrive, celebrate those first pearly whites as a milestone to be cherished, no matter the timing.