Seeing other babies get teeth first while your child still has bare gums can definitely raise concerns as a parent. When your friend’s baby flashes a toothy grin at 6 months old but your own 12-month old is still gumming their food, it’s natural to worry if their development is on track.
But while frustrating, late teething is incredibly common and usually doesn’t require invasive medical treatment. The pediatrician will let you know if any true issues are delaying eruption.
Otherwise, simple at-home measures are often all that’s needed to soothe a late teether until nature takes its course. Providing cold teethers, gentle gum massages, and pain relief medication recommended by the doctor can relieve discomfort. Making sure baby is getting sufficient nutrition supports healthy development. And visiting the pediatric dentist helps monitor progress.
With patience and supportive care, you can ensure your late teether continues to hit milestones even if teeth take their time arriving. Trust the process and consult professionals if concerns arise.
Defining Late Teething
First, what exactly constitutes “late” when it comes to teething? The American Dental Association states:
- First teeth generally erupt between 6-12 months
- No teeth by 12 months is still considered normal
- Up to 6 months delay in getting teeth is common
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, concern is only needed if:
- No teeth have emerged by 12 months
- A first molar hasn’t arrived by 16 months
- Less than 6 teeth by 18 months
- A full set of 20 baby teeth aren’t in by age 3
So while kids normally get teeth between 6 and 12 months, later is still considered typical development.
In the majority of cases, late teething is normal and doesn’t necessitate any special treatment. But it’s wise to have your pediatrician or dentist evaluate if:
- No teeth have appeared by 18-24 months
- No signs teeth are developing under gums
- Missing other developmental milestones
- Risk factors like premature birth or syndrome
- Appearance of teeth formations is abnormal
The doctor can check for dental maturity on x-rays and look for signs of malnutrition or vitamin deficiency impacting tooth growth. Thyroid issues may also affect emergence. These clues help determine appropriate treatment.
Treatment Options for Late Teething
For babies on the later end of normal teething, no medical treatment is required. However, if the delay stems from an identified issue, possible interventions include:
1. Nutrient Supplements
If a deficiency in essential nutrients is identified as the cause of delayed teething, pediatricians might recommend supplements to support healthy tooth development. Proper nutrition is vital for the timely emergence of teeth.
2. Hormone Therapy
In cases where endocrine disorders are responsible for delayed teething, hormone therapy might be prescribed. Balancing hormonal levels can aid in the natural eruption of teeth.
3. Removal of Gum Tissue
Sometimes, excess gum tissue can block the eruption of teeth. Dentists might recommend a minor surgical procedure to remove the obstructing tissue, allowing the teeth to come through naturally.
4. Dental Frenectomy
If a tight frenulum (the tissue connecting the lips or tongue to the gum) is affecting the emergence of teeth, a dental frenectomy can be performed. This simple procedure involves cutting the frenulum to facilitate normal tooth eruption.
5. Assisting Eruption via Orthodontics
Orthodontic methods, such as dental braces or expanders, can be employed to guide teeth into their proper positions if abnormal positioning is hindering eruption. Orthodontic devices gently encourage the teeth to emerge correctly.
6. Surgery for Impacted or Blocked Teeth
In cases of severely impacted or blocked teeth, oral surgery may be necessary. Oral surgeons can remove obstacles or assist impacted teeth in breaking through the gums.
Such interventions are rare with late teething. Doctors typically adopt a “watch and wait” approach, letting development unfold naturally without rushing treatment.
It’s crucial for parents to consult with healthcare professionals, including pediatricians and dentists, to determine the underlying cause of delayed teething. Based on the diagnosis, appropriate interventions can be recommended to ensure the healthy and timely eruption of the baby’s teeth.
Relieving Symptoms at Home
For relieving normal late teething discomfort at home, try these measures:
- Massage swollen gums gently
- Offer cool teething toys or frozen washcloths
- Use oral gels and topical numbing products sparingly
- Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain per doctor’s guidance
- Ensure baby is getting adequate nutrition
- Brush gums with a baby toothbrush and water
- Avoid shared utensils to reduce bacteria transmission
- Distract with singing, rocking or going for walks
Your doctor may advise vitamin D, fluoride, or iron supplementation. But simple comfort measures are often all that’s needed.
When to Visit Your Pediatric Dentist
Take your late teether to their first dental visit after their first birthday or when the first tooth emerges. The dentist will:
- Check for normal tooth, gum, jaw development
- Assess any eruption challenges if teeth haven’t appeared
- Look for cavities once teeth are in
- Discuss proper oral hygiene once teeth erupt
- Monitor growth and set a treatment timeline if needed
- Provide parental guidance on managing teething symptoms
Late teething alone does not mean your child will have dental problems. But seeing a pediatric dentist helps ensure all aspects of oral development stay on track.
Give It Time
Remember, babies are unique and develop in their own time. If your late teether is healthy overall, focus on providing comfort and nutrition while waiting patiently for teeth to pop through. With professional guidance, late teething can be smoothly managed with simple supportive care.