She woke up screaming three times last night. Crying like an ambulance. Because of one little tooth. This is the girl who didn’t shed a single tear when four teeth pushed out in the course of a week. Those were nice teeth. This is a bad one. This is an evil tooth. I hate this tooth.
Teething most commonly starts around the seventh month of a baby’s life, but is one of those wildly variable phenomena that will always surprise a first-time parent. Dr. Spock notes that some babies can have their first teeth emerge at four months old, while others can be a year and a half old before the first signs of teething. Whenever it happens, it’s quite likely to surprise you, and frighten you. Stock up early on Orajel. You never know.
I cradle her and rock her back to sleep. I try not to use the Orajel unless she absolutely won’t go to sleep without it. It’s so hard to tell with her. She has nightmares sometimes, and other times she just wants to sleep in our bed, so there’s no guarantee that these are actual teething pains. I don’t want to use Orajel if I don’t have to. Why can’t Dr. Spock do house calls to tell me for sure? “It’s time to use... the Orajel! Fire at will.” “Aye-aye, Doctor.” Why couldn’t I have been a millionaire with a budget for a private nurse to stay with us twenty four hours a day? I don’t have the training for this. I’m just a guy whose sperm got lucky. What do I know about these mysterious processes?
Teeth usually come out in a standard order. The lower central incisors emerge first, followed by the four upper incisors. After this there is often a lull of a few months, after which the next six come in rapid succession: the remaining two lower incisors and all four molars. After another lull, the canines come out like vampire fangs between the incisors and molars. Then, a few months later, the last four molars should emerge.
A few months, my ass. Those upper incisors only started showing a month ago. They still aren’t all the way out, and already she’s working on the molars. This child is not going to follow the rules about anything. At this rate, she’ll have a full set of chompers by the time she’s a year and a half old. In a way, that’s good. Get the business done quickly. In another way, that’s almost a year and a half of continuously disrupted sleep.
Teething is not always a painful process. In many cases, teeth emerge with almost no fuss. If the baby is feeling pains, they can usually be relieved by chewing on soft things. Cold also seems to help in many cases. Several companies make water-filled teething rings and other soft plastic toys to ease the pain. Buy lots of them, for you will lose them. Buy an assortment, for she will not always want the same thing. Sometimes your baby will want a chilled plastic ring, while other days only Mr. Lion’s soft, furry snout will do. Teething biscuits are also a good idea, with an added benefit of getting the baby used to feeding herself.
Now she’s happy as a clam, roaming around the house, chasing the cats, pulling my CDs off the shelf, and talking at me nonstop as she works on a biscuit. Back to normal. Watching me with that naughty smile. That very naughty, very toothy smile.