Teething patterns vary greatly from child to child – some don’t have any teeth by their first birthday, while others are sporting a mouthful by then. Most babies sprout their first teeth between 4 and 7 months of age.
When will your toddler get molars?
Teeth generally appear one at a time over a period of months, and often – but not always – in this order: First the bottom two middle teeth, then the top two middle ones, then the ones along the sides and back.
Your child’s teeth may not all come in straight, but don’t worry – they usually straighten out over time.
Your toddler’s first molars, the wider teeth in the back of the mouth, will probably start to appear around their first birthday. The upper first molars often come in first, between 13 and 19 months, while the lower first molars may pop up between 14 and 18 months.
These molars will make it easier for your toddler to chew, so you can add new foods to their diet. They’ll be able to handle breads and crackers, various veggies and proteins, and sliced or dried fruits. Just take care to avoid choking hazards like large chunks of fruit or crunchy vegetables.
The last teeth to appear (the second molars, found in the very back of the mouth on the top and bottom) usually start to erupt around your child’s second birthday. The upper second molars are later, erupting between 25 and 33 months, while the lower second molars usually appear a bit sooner, between 23 and 31 months.
By age 3, your child will likely have a full set of 20 baby teeth, which won’t start falling out until their permanent teeth are ready to start coming in, around age 6.
Toddler teething symptoms
Some toddlers notice teething pain more, especially when their molars are coming in, because they’re bigger and more blunt than their other teeth. Other toddlers are less bothered by teething because they’re used to the sensation and have more to distract them (like building block towers!). It just depends on the kid.
Either way, experts suspect teething pain isn’t quite as bad as many parents fear. Some signs that show up at the same time as teething, like diarrhea and fever, may actually be related to coinciding illnesses or other developmental milestones.
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Here are the symptoms your toddler is most likely to experience while teething:
- Drooling. Your toddler’s mouth might produce extra saliva during teething to help soothe their irritated gums. If they’re drooling a lot, it can lead to a facial rash.
- Gum swelling and sensitivity. When teeth are getting ready to bust through the gums, there may be swelling and soreness in the area of the emerging tooth.
- Irritability or fussiness. Even if teething only feels like a dull ache, it’s still annoying – and can make your toddler pretty cranky.
- Biting and chewing. Chewing on toys, blankets and clothing, and utensils is a common way that toddlers try to alleviate some of the pressure associated with teething.
- Refusing food. If your child’s mouth is excessively sore, they may not be interested in eating as a way of avoiding more pain.
- Sleep problems. Anytime your little one is uncomfortable, it could be harder for them to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Teething doesn’t cause a fever, diarrhea, or vomiting; these symptoms may be due to an infection unrelated to teething. Teething also doesn’t make your child more vulnerable to infection right before a new tooth appears.
Call your child’s doctor if your toddler has symptoms that worry you or a temperature of 102 degrees or higher. The doctor can help determine whether your child has a problem that needs medical attention, like an ear infection.
How to help your teething toddler
The same tactics you used when your baby was teething may help you now. Teething toddlers may want to chew on things to ease the soreness in their gums, and if that doesn’t work, you can ask their doctor about using over-the-counter pain relievers.
- Offer your toddler a rubber teething ring, teething toy, or a cold washcloth to gnaw on.
- Don’t use teething necklaces, though – they’re choking and strangulation hazards.
- Offer them gum-soothing foods like hard toast, apple slices, or a frozen bagel (chewing them is good practice for their developing jaw, too).
- Offer plenty of cold foods such as applesauce or yogurt.
- Give them a small dose of a pain reliever, such as children’s acetaminophen; this is typically considered safe, but always check with your doctor before giving your toddler any medication.
- Avoid giving your toddler any aspirin or even rubbing it on their gums – the use of aspirin in children is associated with Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition.
- Ask your child’s doctor before using a topical pain relief gel. Some contain unsafe levels of ingredients, and they can numb the back of your child’s throat and weaken their gag reflex (which helps prevent them from choking on their saliva). Also, these gels quickly rub off in the mouth and won’t help for long.
Finally, if drool causes a rash on your child’s face, gently wipe the drool away with a soft cotton cloth. You can also smooth petroleum jelly on their chin before a nap or bedtime to protect the skin from further irritation.